Peeling onions

Snowflakes in the bathroom mirror this morning as I sit on the pot. Happy equinox!

Later, in Via Negativa’s spam comment folder, I find line after line of question marks. My finger hovers over the delete button. Am I sure these were merely characters in an exotic font my desktop can’t display? What if someone really meant to question me this thoroughly? Or maybe it represents some poor, lonely soul’s existential crisis.

One spam comment I can read is only slightly less cryptic:

Onion booty. Big booty. Latina booty. Doctor booty good. Big black booty. Yoga booty ballet…

I suppose the ellipsis is meant to suggest that the booty-related possibilites are endless, but I’m frankly not sure how you would top yoga booty ballet.

And I’m agog at the idea of onion booty. Almost everything I cook has onions in it; a sharp-nosed friend of mine tells me I always smell faintly of onions. I like the way they relax and turn translucent, then slowly caramelize into brown sugar, or stay crisp and shapely in a stir-fry. But when I google “onion booty,” it turns out to be the name of a thoroughly unpoetic porn site, featuring “asses so beautiful they make you cry” being defiled in a variety of ways that one may or may not find unspeakable, depending on one’s tolerance for such things, but which are at any rate quite predictable. No layers of mystery here. Nothing like an onion.

The question marks that once were letters also probably said something utterly mundane. I’m reminded of my brother’s work with the Indus Valley script, which has so far defied all efforts at decipherment. One self-styled expert with a Harvard connection has been advancing the theory that they aren’t glyphs at all, but mystic symbols of some sort. People used to think that about the Egyptian and Mayan writing systems, too. It’s so easy to assume that anything that’s cryptic must be profound. But Steve is beginning to suspect that most of the surviving Indus Valley inscriptions actually record commercial transactions — that’s why they’re so brief and repetitive. If this is true, the language may never be deciphered.

The snow didn’t amount to anything here, but farther east, I gather, some folks got an onion snow. It’s onion-planting time for sure. The snowflakes sit briefly on the thawed earth as if they were seeds, encoded with full libraries of DNA. Then they melt, and turn into ordinary water — the currency of the planet. And a week later, all along the edge of the woods, the tall green glyphs of wild onions.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

17 Comments


  1. Steve is right about the commercial transactions using Indus script. Hieroglyphs were used to record properties of minerals, metals, alloys, furnaces used to produce the metallic inventions.

    k

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  2. I love this kind of thing. Happy equinox, yourself.

    “It’s so easy to assume that anything that’s cryptic must be profound.” That assumption used to be the sum total of my poetics. “Got to be good looking ’cause he’s so hard to see.” (Not that I have any formulated, functioning theory of poetry now.)

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    1. The sooner poets rid themselves of theories, schools and manifestoes, the better, I’d say. But you’re right: a lot of people so see to pursue obscurity for its own sake.

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    2. I just remembered what you were quoting! I haven’t listened to the Beatles in years. That was a good song, though.

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  3. I like the notion of green onions and other wildness as glyphs. a reversal of sorts of the usual metaphor. Runic dandelions…hmm. I may play with this.
    also, do you mind if I play with yer morning porch words from yesterday? is your moment big enough?

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  4. What you don’t realize, is that by Googling “onion booty”, you probably created that site! :-) The Quantum Internet Porn rule says, “if you can think if it, it’s there”. (The spammers, of course, would have used a program to create random word combinations. I doubt that counts as “thinking of it”.)

    On the other hand, I’ve seen “yoga booty ballet” around for years — indeed, I’ve seen it sent by spammers! ;-)

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    1. Thanks for enlightening us about the Quantum Internet Porn rule, David. I had no idea. I’m trying to remember which sci-fi author it was who proposed the existence of sub-atomic particles called fictons, which were responsible for creating parallel realities containing anything we can dream up.

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    1. No, it was Robert Heinlein. I just remembered. Give me a little more time and I might even remember the title.

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  5. “It’s so easy to assume that anything that’s cryptic must be profound.”

    True. This is why so much indecipherable poetry gets praise. We don’t get it, but we’re sure it’s incredibly deep and meaningful.

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    1. Well, I see you managed to decipher one of my hidden critiques in this post without any trouble. :)

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  6. Yeah, I was just north of Philadelphia on Friday morning for a business meeting and it was snowing, just as we noted the vernal equinox. I wondered if you were “getting any” as they say. I know what’s booty to you!

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    1. I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me to work in “onion skin,” though. Damn.

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  7. I had fun reading your post.

    Your ‘snowflakes’ remark reminded me of something I read today: “The snow, which had held off in the morning, now began, lightly as spiders, to descend. On landing, the new flakes, many-footed, stood resting on the old.” — Benjamin Markovits’s A Quiet Adjustment

    “I find line after line of question marks. My finger hovers over the delete button.” — this made me smile.

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    1. My apologies, Tammy — I just inadvertenly deleted your comment at the other post, in which you mourned the passing of Postal Poetry (to whcih I can only say I am sorry not to be publishing any more of your very innovative postcards, either) and said that you liked avatars. I guess I’m tired — I clicked on the “delete” rather than the “reply” button on the blog dashboard. WordPress is maybe making things TOO easy these days!

      Anyway, thanks for this comment, too. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for sharing that quote. It does kind of remind me of the sort of thing I write, which I suppose one could characterize as lyrical hyperbole.

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