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“Onion Skin”

PHOTO BY LAUREN R. STANLEY Solstice Sunset, December 22, 2020, Rosebud Reservation, SD. Rev. Stanley is the Priest-in-Charge Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West).

An excerpt from “Onion Skin” by Indigenous poet Laura Dá.

Portents of fierce winter 

undermined by movement: 

the age-old songs 

of chill warning 

grow sparse 

over stretched miles and 

vexing meridians. 

 

Corn that sprouts lushly 

then offers abundant ears 

on the banks of the Scioto 

gives way 

to the thin skins 

of allotment onions 

along the lower banks 

of the Kaw. 

 

A subtle conjuring 

winds under the skin 

when the tract 

severed in twain 

twangs within the body; 

new lots break 

into fractions 

alongside the nations. 

 

Each move carves 

this tribe in half, 

so that one hundred arrive 

onto the newest allotment 

of the thousand 

who walked from Ohio. 

—– 

Some say an onion, 

halved and burned 

black over hardwood 

then pressed 

to the torso 

will lift the wet rack 

            of consumption. 

 

When the first spring breaks, 

the survivors 

wear a layered blister 

straddling the hollow of their chests; 

            green corn sprouts slender.

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