KEITH S. WILSON
I smash each soft-spotted head
reaching from the lawn,
not because I know mushrooms
keep poison or notice their ugliness
but being a boy means
having never turned down
a clean kill. None of the horror
of a splatter of blood
or ooze, no slime or gentle give
of bone. Nothing but broken
drum skins, curious zombies
in the yard, never living long
before their frills are torn
and scattered in the dirt to disappear,
gone the way of snail shells,
lighted bodies of ants, the beef jerky
tongues of worm and bubble pop
of pigeon eggs. The day is long
for me and I cannot find
my sidewalk chalk.
And anyway, the ground
is too wet. I am too young,
like the rules of baseball.
Mushrooms don't scream,
and what if they did?
Out here, alone?
I know the innocence
of destruction, the torture
of wondering what the color
of inside is. I know what all children
are pretended not to know,
and adults craft a million shades
against: God made good and evil,
safety flags to run to when It sees you.
In between, a cleared field
for fun, a song that didn’t live long,
buried under a hill without a name,
the good kind for rolling down.
Fungus, Like Poetry,
is tricky, jack-o-lanterns look like chanterelles,
false morels like true morels, and the destroying angel
so much like the harmless button mushroom.
Despite gills glowing in the dark, stomach cramping,
fits of vomiting, the jack-o-lantern, they say,
is even tastier than its edible cousin, causing some
to return again and again, disregarding the pain,
seduced by the smell, the memory of its taste.
I have seen grasshoppers, bees, spiders eaten
from the inside out, covered in a white shroud of spores.
Read of ants being turned into zombies by a fungus
eating away their brains, causing them to die at the very heart
of the colony, the enemy multiplying from within.
I have savored truffles and huitlacoche, and know
why men spend years training their pigs to smell
them out among the roots of oak and hazel, poplar and beech.
Why the Aztec purposely blighted their crops with corn smut.
And I love the veins of blue-green mold marbling white cream,
the piquant taste of Penicillium.
There have been nights when instead of sleep
I have listened to the retching of shamans, heard their visions,
their screams as they turn into jaguars and prowl the night.
Who can say what will happen when you eat it
or when the spores sprayed into the air, like words spoken,
settle in, rooting in the soft, moist heartwood?