After chemo, my mother smokes out on the screened porch.
I choose a knife, peel back the skins of four pounds of red onions,
release their sting. The knife is not sharp enough but I am good
at chopping. Know how to hold the ovals down on the board,
line them up and slice them into thin rounds that fall away
from their centers into a tangled heap until my eyes weep
of their own accord. My mother comes into the kitchen
and I wipe my eyes, say, The onions are strong.
At home, I would use olive oil. Here, I use butter.
Stand over the pot rearranging the onions with a spoon.
My mother empties her ashtray.
Come sit on the porch, she says.
I shake my head, tell her, I have to cook the onions slow,
a long time.
My mother’s hair has not grown back yet.
She weighs barely one hundred pounds.
I hear her lighter ignite out on the porch.
The onions soften. You are not supposed
to let them brown. I add black pepper
for her blood, beef broth for her bones,
white wine for her spirit, three tablespoons of cognac
for the nights she stayed up telling her secrets.
Love is always tainted. I add salt.