When my young son asks, What’s a mushroom?
I tell him his face, his belly, his thighs.
I touch each spongy part of him with my finger.
He is deep into Wonderland, knows Alice
and the caterpillar, and hungers for more.
I give him edible fungus and nibble a toe.
I give him raised on a farm or wild in the forest.
Nourished by worms and redolent of iron.
I give him the fruiting body, spore-bearing and fleshy.
And under the dome, a network of blade-like gills
delicate as lace, fragile as a spider’s web.
Squat tree, rubber umbrella, one-legged stool.
And on the lawn, ephemeral as a magic trick—
here in the morning, then the swift farewell.
I give him fairy ring, porcini, hen-of-the-woods.
Food for royalty. Ancient promise of immortality.
I do not give him atomic plume, or the locket,
mist of death cap hidden inside like a drop
of perfume. One dab on the lips, a different kind
of goodbye. Tonight, I slip the music of mushrooms
into his mouth—chanterelle, portobello, morel.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.
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