Packing Onions at the Food Bank

Mary Nork

The wind came hard in February.  Power lines snapped and ice formed cataracts

inside my windows, while I, wrapped in quilts, sulked like a newborn earth,

in want of light and heat.  Two full days: Cold hands, cold food, cold bed.


Centered in a steaming warehouse, individual pallets brim with hundred-pound sacks,

a corporate gift.  Purple skins drift at every stir of onion-musky air,

and strangers, I among them, healed now from last month’s need and want, line rows

of twelve-foot tables, to ease hunger of unseen others.



we sort and fill,

twist, lift, carry

within our minor orbits,

five thousand pounds,

three-pound bags at a time,

of purple onions

firm and luminous.


I hear the rustle of hulls, feel the acid of their slick.  I breathe the cells,

taste the scent, pack them off to homes remote and spare.


Ancients worshipped and swore oaths on these layered spheres.

They buried them in pyramids to liven the dead, gifted them to brides,

sprinkled their juices in ears to dispel pain.

But I will back them with buttered crumbs and suck the pulpy core,

restored to the gift of warmth and light,

the gift of hands, the gifts of all things past.