onion skin

by Rebecca Cook

I would give up God for this poem. No more prayers, no more hymns, no more white lilies on my granny’s grave. I would break the cross into two perfect pieces and plant them on a hill, so far away no one can find them, not in this poem, not on this hill, not on this Friday afternoon.

I would open the latch of the world and stir the people inside with a long silver spoon, the spoon from the fairytale, the spoon full of strained peas and airplanes, house dresses, rubber boots, and slop buckets. I would gather it all up and pack it away in a coffee tin hidden somewhere in this poem where no one can go but me.

Someone told me once that it’s all about line breaks, but there are no broken lines here, only bread crumbled over stones, a path through the woods, a candy-coated oven full of children who went too far, who left their grandmothers, who stumbled upon an entirely unlucky eventuality where it’s always Friday, always dark, always exactly eleven o’clock in this poem.

Here on the outskirts of the world, there are only metaphors for meaning and interesting questions like how many of these pebbles does it take to fill up this cup? The cup is stainless purply pink full of gold. The cup would be a sunset but there are no sunsets in this poem. There are no twilights or chewing tobacco, and no grandfathers spearing the biscuits with their forks. There are only sunrises and high noons and the woman’s papery hands wisping against your face, against your hair, against the legs of the moon.

I will look inside the belly, thrown open wide and wondrous. There are stars inside, wrapped in foil, and many onion skin pages to trace the veins of leaves, the lips of violets, the tarnished silver she kept in the living room, a tea service she brought out on holidays and when the preacher came calling. For we are all alone in this poem, in the bedroom in the high poster bed with the crocheted spread full of flowers that are still falling from her hands.

And if God pursues me into this poem, I will lead him here, to the place where she’s still doing the Charleston, where he cannot touch her, his fiery sword and his hairy hands. I will set her into a jewelry box and leave her twirling inside, high on her toes, clogging to the music she always loved best, Froggy Went a Courtin’ and when the poem ends she will be safe inside it with her red hair and her five children under five and a bushel basket to gather the beans from the field.

REBECCA COOK was a Fiction Scholar at Bread Loaf in 2009 and received her MFA from Vermont College that same year. She has published a novel, Click (New Rivers Press, 2014); and four collections of poems, The Terrible Baby (Dancing Girl Press, 2006); I Will Not Give Over (Aldrich Press, 2013); The Shadow of Water (2016), a Romanian/English collection with Romanian poet Talvescu Dumitru; and most recently, the erasure chapbook, The Best Man in the World (Dancing Girl Press, 2018), with poet Jenny Sadre-Orafai. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Antioch Review, The Nervous Breakdown, New England Review, The Rumpus, Seneca Review, and others. Her website, Bipolar Simple, is here—godlikepoet.com

Photo from Rebecca Cook

3 thoughts on “onion skin”

  1. Uncle David. I like it. It sounds like her on the inside where matters the most. Thank you. I have saved a copy in my files.

  2. This made me cry a little, it’s so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Love you to the moon and back.

Comments are closed.