The Onion Theory of the Universe by Charlie Brice

He sat across from me at a table on the Psych Ward
at Denver General Hospital, 1970.

He cut an onion in half with the knife I let him use
when the nurses weren’t watching.

He handed me the two halves and sat back with a wizened wink.
“See what I mean?” he said.

George taught me to play chess seriously, to think about
checkmate from the first move onward.

He was a grizzled fellow who had, behind the psychosis,
a grandfatherly gentleness—a flannel flair.

We had to restrict his use of the Ward’s payphone. The FBI
complained that George kept calling to report the many

Soviet agents among his fellow patients and our staff. His
code name, he told the Feds, was Sargent Friday.

His was The Onion Theory of the Universe, it’s truth so apparent to him
that “see what I mean?” was his sole and sufficient explanation.

And perhaps, if you patiently unwound all those scale leaves,
you’d discover what George did at its (and his) core.

The Secret Service had alerted the Denver Police after George sent
over a dozen Spanish onion halves (his favorite) to President Nixon.

Apparently, Nixon never understood George’s handwritten note,
never grasped its truth. See what I mean?

Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (forthcoming), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta ReviewChiron ReviewPlainsongsI-70 ReviewThe Sunlight PressAnti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere.