Sweet Onions

by Jaci Hill


My grandmother sits in her kitchen with granite countertops,
and tells me of how she grew up with dirt floors,
an outhouse in the backyard.
As I carry in a takeout box of hot noodles,
I hear the story of when her mother ordered her
to snap a chicken’s neck for supper,
how she cried all night long.

My grandfather sits in his leather recliner,
with a cupholder on the arm.
He jokes about being a high school drop-out,
he spent his adolescence in the fields,
picking crops for pennies a piece.

They sit together in their living room,
by the fireplace burning wood
he chopped to keep her warm.
They were married at seventeen,
bought their first trailer
with one bathroom made of hunter green tile.

They picked onions so much
that the smell seeped into their pores,
and the underneaths of their nails
were dotted with flakes of orange skin,
to build this house with
high ceilings and a welcome mat
with bold, clay-stained letters:
you’re home.

She holds his hand as they watch westerns,
looks into his Paul Newman blue eyes
which look the same as they did
when they were young,
making out in a pick-up truck
and stealing glances from Church pews.
As their dark hair grays,
his calloused hands hold hers
with nails painted red and liver spots
creeping their way onto her skin.

As minds get old and tongues slow,
he writes notes, leaves them around the house,
I love you baby
as if nothing has changed after
decades of waking up together.
They sit side by side,
holding yellowing mugs,
not noticing – or not caring – how far they have come,
how sweet their years have been.


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