The Smell of Onions Cooking: A Poem

by | Original Poetry, The Poetry Deck | 2 comments

The best smell in the world is the smell of onions cooking
and you will not convince me otherwise. It sometimes wafted
through the house when I was younger, in the early mornings
when my father rose and chopped potatoes and onions
for hashbrown which he cooked, without fail, on old cast iron.

I passed my days in the smells of my mother’s garden
and learned to love the unripe smell of green tomatoes
in the sunshine and the sharpness of basil and the taste
of homemade pesto on my tongue. Years later I realized
that raw garlic triggered migraines. When you have a migraine
you see everything clearer and taste everything sharper
and smell everything stronger and hurt and hurt and hurt.

The smell of damp earth. This is a smell that has followed
the human race for millennia. Its name is petrichor
and it rises just after the rain or sometimes just before
when the night-crawlers leave their holes and the snails
vacate their secret dwellings to crawl in lines up the trees
and the street floods and the smell of sewage rises from
the deep and the smell of rain beams down from the sky
and flashes, in tangible droplets, before your watching eyes,
and splatters into waiting hands and onto waiting heads.


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Poet’s Notes

I’ve been wanting to write a poem based around home and a sense of nostalgia for a while now, and I’ve finally gotten around to it in this one. We all have particular smells, sounds, and memories that transport us back in time to when we were children, and these are some of mine. I find that smells in general can be exceptionally powerful triggers of nostalgia. 

The smell of rain, or the smell of the soil after it’s rained, is a smell that is incredibly universal in triggering nostalgia. I can’t say why exactly this is. But if I had to give nostalgia a particular smell, it would be that one. That’s why I closed out this poem with that smell. 

If you liked this poem, you might also like my poem “Grass,” which also deals with themes of family. 

Thank you for reading!

a leaf on the street in the rain

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