Monday, December 05, 2005


It smells just like yesterday

My older brother Jesus said
the smell of ripe onions
always reminded him of summer

We’d start working early
in the six a.m. dark
on the Horner farm in Southern Wisconsin
while the dirt was still wet
from the sprinkled dew

rows of the bald white onions rested
beneath the soft soil we were told to pick them up
by the neck the way a cat
carries her litter

Shake the dirt off there round backs being careful not to tear
their long green ribbons

At fifteen cents a bushel
we thought we were smart
until we were caught trying to hide
large clumps of soil
near the bottom of the bushel basket
to make it fill easier.

Around eleven o’clock we became tired,
my father would say “this row here, will be the last one today”
so we would try to hurry and finish only to find

his story would change as we neared the row’s end
it doesn’t pay to work half a day

when I was twelve, my father told me
“this summer… this summer…. will be the last”
with a quarter squeezed in my hand
and a dirt-crusted smile on my face
I knew he was right

Years later
we drove on Highway 31, past the Horner farm
my father took a long glance out the car window
and said
back there back there near the corn bin is where I stayed
when I didn’t know better

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