Dyemaking, a guide

By | 31 October 2021


Ascending rows of little onions, butts
in grooves,
their shedded skins like exoskeletons.
and dry, protecting nothing, at what point is a skin
no longer
a skin? This skin never wrinkles, it is always morning
in the supermarket.
2.50 a kilo but the skins are free. So are the paper bags
also provide a thin brown layer between a world
and a smaller world.
I place a few onion skins into a bag, it becomes the skin
encasing the skin.


There are many ways to organise a pantry, by
name, date, colour
or the dewey decimal system. This one is an index
of places—
I am a place, a portable place—says a skin when I open the bag
its topography
of bald globes a coppery contour of absence. At around
I transfer them into a bag containing a crowd already—an atlas
of onion skins.


Shelves are blank, expressionless in fact
the entire
green grocer is empty like a cracked egg. The only
residue, fragments
of stained glass onion skin. I run
my thumb
around the inner shell like my grandmother would, that last drop


(That same grandmother had a habit of tying knots
in her hankies
little reminders lest she forget something.
It puzzled me
how this technology worked, how were the words contained
in the snot
knots embroidered with flowers and initials, and
how many knots
could amass in a pocket, and be carried from one place
to another?)


Another empty greengrocer, the greengrocer
sticks to the side of a gum stripping
its bark. So
named for its colour, it also vacates its outer layer
first it must exit the earth. The cicada repeatedly revises
its edges—
the first time is always the hardest. A crisp absence
a memory
in brackets. I’d like to know what it is like
to shed
your skin, to draw yourself a new outline.


Lentils carrot celery onion garlic oregano bay
diced tomatoes stock and olive oil
is a recipe
for soup handed to me by mouth, you don’t need

apparently. I’ll take any excuse to peel
an onion
and sweep the skins off the edge of the board
into my pocket
until I open the pantry where I find
the same
old paper bag now soft with creases
and onion smell.


A skin is a noun and a noun a skin, lonely
and deciduous.
I thought nouns were heavy but these skins
are light, several
bagfuls make only fifty grams. I fill a stainless steel pot
cool water but when its warm it brews like a bruise.
A pigment
will sit but dye gets beneath a surface. It has no skin
of its own
so it seeps into things. After one hour I drain
the dark liquor
and discard the skins—dark, soggy
and exhausted.

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