Poet’s notebook: My poem “Onion” followed by reflection

 

Onion

Onion was deep in thought
looking out over the field
where Woo was sitting
reading a book under a tree.
Beyond where Woo was sitting
was an old pile of stones
left by the farmer who cleared the field
many years ago.
Onion was thinking about his life
as Onion. What had he accomplished?
It seemed
that he had done almost nothing.
He thought of the birds, building nests
and the bees that make honey
and the frogs that do nothing
but somehow
everything seemed to have a job.
“What am I here to do?” thought Onion.
Just then Woo looked up from his book.
“Onion”, he shouted, “Come here,
and bring yourself.”
Onion heaved a big sigh and squinted.
Woo seemed to fade for a second.
“Oh, I know what my job is”, thought Onion.
“I’m coming”, shouted Onion.
And he hurried down
to join his friend.

Reflection: I have been thinking, more like obsessing, about Mali, “the loneliest elephant” that I wrote about in my poem “What am I shouting?”. Her plight has become a watermark on my heart. Even when I am happy about something, her image repeats like a mantra, works on me like a Zen koan, around the clock. Mali really is the elephant in the room of my consciousness, except in Mali’s case, I see her vividly. Her plight seems to stand for the failure of the human race to love.

Loving the planet means loving life, and that means loving all the creatures with whom we share this place. And loving life means remembering that our hearts are capable of expanding almost infinitely. There is hate and evil in the world and all forms of cruelty, but if we uncage our hearts, evil will stop terrorizing us. Only by loving can we alter the endless cycle of cruelty and abuse and war. We are victims of our fear, and because of our fear, we have allowed our hearts to condense into a distraught muscle that beats in our chests until the day it stops beating and we die. Our hearts are so much more than a muscular stressed-out pump!

This morning it was my turn to share a poem with a circle of poets who take turns sending poems to each other. I was anxious to lighten up, remembering the words of a fellow writer, in his response to my poem about Mali: “Imagery needs no explanation, so explaining as you write is like writing before you are ready to send the message.”

I love writing poems about Onion and Woo because there is no explaining to do. I just stand back and let them interact, and usually, as with a dream, in what happens there is more than meets the eye. Woo is very mysterious to me. He (or she) is a shape-shifter. Woo’s father is the wind. Onion is just Onion (His father was an onion!) but I’m not sure who or what Woo is, but, like Onion, I hold great affection for Woo, or at least what Woo represents. Like Onion, with everything that is going on in the world, I am questioning what I should be doing with myself, how best to spend my time at this moment, in my life and in the life of the planet. In this poem Onion realizes that he could do a lot worse than hang out with Woo. Woo is not all in any one reality. He is, for lack of a better word, magical. Onion is lucky to have a friend like Woo. We should all be so lucky.

The heart is open to magic.

 

 

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