Arts & Culture · Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Humble Onions

This poem teaches us how to get our hands dirty in the process of making new life. We love the startling image of nascent roots, flowers in their birthday suits. A trudge in the cold, “to take out the trash in the dark,” becomes an exalted and memorable experience in this spellbinder by Kristina Bicher:


How to Plant Daffodils                                                  

When you first tear open the brown paper sack
and peer down, don’t be alarmed at their nakedness,
how they huddle in clutches of six or twelve, some
with brittle skins, others bald, and all blank-faced.

Take them one by one, hold each in your palm,
the cream-white meat of its flesh neither heavy
nor light, its body a teardrop with roots.

Then choose a spade, edged with teeth, and cut a hole
twice-deep as they are tall.  And among grubs and glassbits,
make for them soft brown caves and line these
with bone dust.  Then bury them.

But you won’t dream of their slender necks rising, the ruched
cloth of them, all that perfume spilt from loose cups.  No,
when cold clamps down around the house, you will stiffen:

shovel the walk and take out the trash in the dark.  Trudge
under the black bones of trees, trying to dislodge
from your mind the difficult man who left in late August
and your grown children gone.

You’ll forsake these humble onions you entombed.
But they, of whom you have asked the impossible,
they will not fail you.  So stop now, before you begin,

and take a moment to know their names:  Salome, Spellbinder,
Early Bride, Rip Van Winkle.


This poem is published with the permission of the author.

Kristina BicherKristina Bicher’s chapbook, Just Now Alive (Finishing Line Press, 2014) was a finalist in the New Women’s Voices Series. Her poems have appeared in The Louisville Review, Catch & Release, Inkwell (Elizabeth McCormack Poetry Prize), The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Quiddity, and others. She received a BA from Harvard University, an MA from Manhattanville College, and is pursuing an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Kirk January 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Beautiful Kristina.

  • B. Elliott January 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

    All I can say is WOW! What a superb poem.