Wild Onion

Allium canadense. Allium validum. Wild and smelly one,
little sister of stinks. Broken, rubbed between two fingers

you linger like nostalgia, regret, grief. You grow anywhere,
a garden, a pavement’s crack, a verge beside the road.

In abused soil, acidic, starved, your white heart waits, white
as loneliness — the first thing, Milton says, which God’s eye

named not good. Kha-a-mot-ot-ke-wat, the one who seeks
a poorer soil, your heart-bulb sunk deep beneath the sod.

Weed. No blade can cut you out. You are reborn each spring,
green tongues from black earth. The Egyptians buried onions

with their dead, a circle within circles. Lonely, lonely, lonely
is every layer around the heart. And I — each year more

lonely — will break your culms and rub my brow with your oil.
I’ll chew your white heart for cure. If that is no remedy,

I’ll lie beside your white flowers and sleep, my wild sister,
rhizome, root, my invasive, unstoppable loneliness.

Janice N. Harrington is author of Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone and The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home. A former librarian and professional storyteller, she now teaches at the University of Illinois.