Onions and Love Letters

It's a year now since thee went to war.
In meeting we speak against this war
but what good does talk do: better to do something.
So thee went to heal and I stayed here to run this farm.
The seasons have run a full change.
The leaves are again gone from the trees.
The branches reach into the sky grasping -
what they grasp for I do not know.
Day after day I write these letters
wherever I can find a moment.
My pen scratches, slows, I dip it in the pot
of ink I made last fall of butternuts.
The words chase in my head
as I write:
snow fell yesterday
the hens aren't laying
peeled onions for chowder
spun three skeins.
Now it etches memories, rememories.
Walking on a day in January
warm as March on rocks by water,
an ocean I have not seen in too long:
reading Shakespeare and Longfellow
far into the night.
Now I put down my pen to bring
in an armload of wood.
The snow on it melts, runs in
thin ice streams over the bark.
The monotony of these days is what drains me.
A millstone grinding corn round and round
until the once oddly shaped kernels are
smooth meal all alike: my edges are rough.
Up at five, moving constantly, the only time
I stay still is to sew and knit
blankets, bandages socks of blue.
Strange that a piece of cotton -
the cotton that caused this war that took
you from me will travel farther than I.
I miss thee.
Yet my love
an onion has many layers.
At its core it is green and sharp to the taste
but smooth to touch, the layers form
in among themselves, holding.
A simple thing you might say, an onion.
The outer layers, they go in rings rougher harder
to touch though their taste is sweeter.
Slice through and the rings fall flat
but they are buried as well
by a skin paper thin and flaking.
These little details I write thou of keep
me trapped sometimes
yet it is these details that fight a war,
that make a life.
Not everything can be an adventure: few things are.
So I will go on running a farm and thou will go on healing
and we will go on writing these letters
and someday there will no longer be a war
and thou will come back
to put together the rings of an onion
thy loving wife
Sarah Makepeace, February 1864

-Abby Chandler

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Last updated: 2/5/96 Created and maintained by Sarah Borchers '96