it began with me on my knees,
although if i go back further,
it really began, as things often do, with the old
old man separating a mat of onion seedlings
poking them into the damp earth with bare hands
telling me with a smile full of gaps
in a parchment lined crinkled face,
mesmerizing lines some curved some straight some forked,
“you want good health, long happy life?
then go plant onion seeds,
they powerful, power full
i believed him.
he had a twinkle in his eye and dirty hands and knees,
not like those tidy old men too afraid to play in the mud on a day after the rain,
who sit on benches with perfect pleats in their crisp trousers
when it’s so hot and dry that the moist smell of rich earth has long since come and gone
leaving a barren day behind,
a barren behind,
no not him;
i believed him as i would my grandfather,
as all the old men who twinkle and tease seeds into the earth
coaxing life out of them remind me, of him,
my grandfather who died in a field of flowers
planted slowly and loved joyfully,
all those flowers!
though in their midst was a lone onion:
the good medicine plant that we keep coming back to
for good happy long life.
that’s how i came to be on my knees
poking onions started from seed
into the damp earth with bare hands,
nails gritted with already drying layers of mud caking over top of one another,
gritting my teeth in frustration
at the never ending plants caught up in a net of stringy roots . . . .
that old man, that trickster,
he never told me onion seedlings would take so long to plant!
make me cry at their inception, cry before they’re fully grown
into an eye stinging, tear jerking
long life, happy health giving medicine plant,
he never told me that their medicine began right from the beginning
all the way to the very sharp, pungent end,
what else didn’t he tell me?
i thought of that old man,
wondering did he plant seeds with tweezers, sparingly
one by one like those clean men in their garden suits
socked feet in garden boots,
or did he sprinkle them in a band
like i had done by hand
and i thought of his stubbly chin and sparkling grin
picking through the netted tangled mat of onions
and forgot the question, forgot the frustration, forgot to grit my teeth
and remembered instead his long, good health, happy life
smiling while dying surrounded by flowers in his final hours
and the one lone blooming onion
jerking tears spilling a fountain
of seeds all over him,
and i found myself on my knees with empty hands
the onions long planted in curvy bands
watching while i stretched and smiled
at the good medicine giving going around,
so if you have no old man to tell you this
it’s true i tell you:
go plant some onion seeds
they’ll bring you bliss.