I've pulled the last of the year's young onions. The garden is bare now. The ground is cold, brown and old. What is left of the day flames in the maples at the corner of my eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes. By the cellar door, I wash the onions, then drink from the icy metal spigot. Once, years back, I walked beside my father among the windfall pears. I can't recall our words. We may have strolled in silence. But I still see him bend that way-left hand braced on knee, creaky-to lift and hold to my eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice. It was my father I saw this morning waving to me from the trees. I almost called to him, until I came close enough to see the shovel, leaning where I had left it, in the flickering, deep green shade. White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame oil and garlic. And my own loneliness. What more could I, a young man, want.
Li-Young Lee, "Eating Alone" from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd.,