I have to keep inspiration running high for my coming adventures in culinary school. So, in honor of National Poetry Month, I’m publishing Erica Jong’s poem “Fruits and Vegetables” in 18 parts over several days.

Published below are parts 4 and 5. See yesterday’s post for parts 1-3.

4

Cantaloupes: the setting sun at Paestum
slashed by rosy columns.

5

I am thinking of the onion again, with its two O mouths, like the gaping holes in nobody. Of the outer skin, pinkish brown, peeled to reveal a greenish sphere, bald as a dead planet, glib as glass, & an odor almost animal. I consider its ability to draw tears, its capacity for self-scrutiny, flaying itself away, layer on layer, in search of its heart which is simply another region of skin, but deeper & greener. I remember Peer Gynt. I consider its sometimes double heart. Then I think of despair when the onion searches its soul & finds only its various skins; & I think of the dried tuft of roots leading nowhere & the parched umbilicus, lopped off in the garden. Not self-righteous like the proletarian potato, nor a siren like the apple. No show-off like the banana. But a modest, self-effacing vegetable, questioning, introspective, peeling itself away, or merely radiating halos like lake ripples. I consider it the eternal outsider, the middle child, the sad analysand of the vegetable kingdom. Glorified only in France (otherwise silent sustainer of soups & stews), unloved for itself alone – no wonder it draws our tears! Then I think again how the outer peel resembles paper, how soul & skin merge into one, how each peeling strips bare a heart which in turn turns skin . . .

Tomorrow:  parts 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

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