Learning The Mandolin, poetry by Shelly Norris at Spillwords.com
Wilhelm Gunkel

Learning The Mandolin

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.

Shelly Norris

Shelly Norris

Shelly Norris currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. A Wyoming native, Norris began writing poetry around the age of 12. As a single mother of three sons, Norris had to concentrate on achieving an education and beginning a career to sufficiently support the family. Early in this journey it became clear that pennies from publishing poetry would not feed and shod hungry barefoot boys, so she necessarily dedicated her time and energy to building a teaching career. Meanwhile, working in the shadows grading sub-par essays, and editing for other writers, she has been slow to send forth her own writings into the cold world of rejection and possible publication in obscure volumes. One who struggled furiously with the art-life balance, Norris knew her destiny to be—like Burroughs, Bukowski, Stevens, and Wilder—a more dedicated and widely published writer later in life. While pecking away at various essays, short stories, and a couple of novels, Norris is wrestling a pile of about 100 poems into cohesive chapbooks and manuscripts embodying the vicissitudes of unrequited love and loss, dysfunctional wounds, healing quests, and the role of cats in the universal scheme.
Shelly Norris

Latest posts by Shelly Norris (see all)