At the beginning of spring
gardening the snakes, indigenous
and invasive, the harmless
and the poisonous, they all emerge,
and in that half-hour before dinner
that’s reserved for washing up,
I join them, five-foot-long
python with my upper
body draped protectively
across the top of the open
washer drum. I hiss insistently
at my beloved resident hobbit
as he’s stripping off his garden-
muddy clothing: what has it got
in its pocketses?
We do this every evening, it’s
routine. And then he turns his pockets
out to check, and occasionally
I’m actually justified in asking.
This dark orange fungal mass
that he extracts looks decidedly
suspicious, but he explains
excitedly that that’s the magic
of it: some other mushroom,
lactarius or russula, inedible
on its own, gets invaded by this
other hypocreaceae fungus which
somehow eats up all the poison,
transforms the mushroom that might
have made you ill or killed you
into food. This parasitic hypocreaceae
fungus sort of cooks it, like it’s
boiling a lobster, and when it’s
orange-red all over, then you
know it’s safe to eat.
Ah. Okay, I did not know this,
and am feeling hungry, but more
so for the dinner that’s waiting on
the table than for a spongy orange
parasitic mass. Here, I’ll wrap
it in a napkin and put it on
your desk. We can continue
identification of weird things
from the garden after dinner.
And (to myself in silence as
I swaddle up the thing) I think:
so glad this bit of strangeness
didn’t wind up in the washing.
Inspired by Dave Bonta’s Lilium martagon. P.S. The lobster mushroom is a real entity.
Read the previous poems in the series.
OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES
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