My knife never sings but hums instead when withdrawn from its block, a metallic whisper so modest only the wielder may hear it. Or perhaps the dog, who seems to enjoy the kitchen nearly as much as I. A Japanese blade, it’s a joy to hold, perfectly balanced, stainless steel-molybdenum alloy, blade and handle of one piece, bright, untarnished, and so sharp as to slide through, rather than awkwardly rupture and divide, its next task on the board.

We’ve never counted the chopped and rendered onions, the fine dice, slender rings and discarded skins, but if we could gather all the corpses we’ve produced together over the years, we’d form a monument to our work, cooperation of metal and man, a Waterloo mound in memory of the bulbs laid there, the planning involved, the missteps and serendipity, and the tears shed along the way.

The blade doesn’t care. It is. It works. It moves things, it lifts, it parts them, and in return is cleansed, and later, in the quiet room, maintains its edge with a silvery rasp, angled steel on steel in a circular motion, over and over, until finally it hums its way back into the block. But it never sings.


58 thoughts on “Onions

  1. You really should teach it the lyrics.

    “so sharp as to slide through, rather than awkwardly rupture and divide”
    This description is so perfect. I even squint a bit at awkwardly in case the veggies spurts when it ruptures. You have a marvellous way with words.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Robert, only you could transform a mundane kitchen chore into a Zen-like aesthetic experience. Thank you for the dinner idea, too..I love gyoza.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written, with an intriguing theme. Onions are a must in all cooking – and to have a excellent knife that whispers and sings, happy in its work, makes chopping the onions such a pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i love how you write about small things like onions and the knife. but you’re completely capable of making it sound beautiful. after all, they said the best pieces are those written because resonanced small things.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. this piece is so good and so familiar, I dug this up from 2007:

    thirty minutes from here

    first I will select the blade
    the one I will use to split the wood
    becoming familiar with its
    curves and weight
    gloved hands caressing
    the long-handled axe
    lean and fine-grained
    ready to perform mayhem
    with each brutal and smooth downward
    acceleration of bone-splitting intent

    I will grind the edge slowly over
    many minutes whetting the steel
    contemplating the next victim
    squeezing life out of a small death
    imagining no argument
    no twisted logic nor misguided
    traction of ideas surviving
    the speed and purpose
    of its promised course.

    I can do it this way or that way
    again and again snapping
    the silence with a sharp
    exhale of distraction
    from yesterday’s small murders
    propping up the imperceptible advancing
    failings of this body
    with the wisdom of age

    lasting longer than I thought possible
    negotiating with a sunset
    the sweat and the fatigue
    the honing of deliberate guidance
    hands poised overhead at the
    transition of momentum
    used more to soothing
    than to parting the hair
    of next year’s heat

    the sun sinking below the ridge
    its last brilliance splayed
    through the fruit trees
    and this hill
    this tiny ranch of solitude
    where the last remnants
    of dry thought are splintered
    into vapor

    the Eightfold Path
    leads day by day
    to a stacked cord drying
    against the shed

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I always see poetry (and prose) as magnifying the detail in a single moment. Your piece really embodies that perspective…or so I read it. Either way, the wording is simply eloquent.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My chin was cupped in my two hands, elbows resting on the table, as I read this piece from my screen. As I read the last word my lips let out my breath in a single exhalation, my chin dipped, dropped in fact, as my shoulders released all tension and relaxed and the corners of my mouth sprang upwards into a smile.
    I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath. The chef in me understood and anticipated every word and the pastry chef in me acknowledged that my poor knives deserved to be treated with more respect.


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