Learning The Mandolin
written by: Shelly Norris
At Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram
in Pondicherry, devotees served them
in piles with fresh lime
juice and sea salt and
I fell in love with red onion
sliced tissue thin
and by default, the woman in the garden
methodically scraping them against
her razor-edged, lyre-shaped instrument.
We’ve owned the tool for years;
like the dulcimer I craved and secured
this past December, I’ve never touched it.
For pickled sweet potatoes
peel and uniformly slice one-
quarter inch thick. The large red onion
should be shaved paper thin.
The first few passes result in
mangled pulp. Do it, he commands
from the side like this: fast, hard.
He often claims, I’m not like your father.
But he is, which is likely why
I married him. They both always know best.
I angle the tool at forty-five degrees (not adjacent)
to align with my rheumatic wrist.
Because I don’t listen. I re-imagine
the angelic woman practicing Dharma
by volunteering her time.
Her long dark hair hanging
across her shoulder like a wing
her fluid, rhythmic motion like easy flight.
With even pressure and all the grace I can muster
I slide the onion in gentle measured runs and watch
translucent purple rings swirl to the counter.
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