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Mushroom Miles


She calls to say “Go get the mushroom book, Mum!”

Hunting through the old bookshelf emigrants,

I notice most the ‘thing’ that is no longer there.

Missing the smell of damp and mold seems odd to me

especially since I tried so hard, when living in England,

to keep the books dry, but always, I failed.

Roger Phillips’ “Mushrooms” opens to a page where adventures began,

where small hands let go of mine and wool-clad legs,

wearing green wellie boots ran ahead, searching beneath oak

and beech for strange fruits of the ancient copse,

taking the edible home and avoiding those fungi 

of mysteriously poisonous nature.

“Find the ‘butter cap mushrooms,” she says.

The tone in her voice reaches across oceans of miles,

reminding me of her never-failing ability to instigate.

Her kitchen table creaks of old elm as she leans

against it, and her stories of the day’s adventures,

unravel the distance between us.

On page 56, I find a plump parasol of palomino fungus,

still attached to its mossy base of black Exmoor loam.  

“Got it!” I say. “Why do you ask?”

“Is it edible?” she wants to know as I study the botannical notes.

“The kids found a patch in Timberscombe Wood,

filled a basket and brought them home for tea,

but the smell is musty and rancid.” She reminds me

of the time I nearly poisoned her Dad with a similar

wooded offering. We remember and laugh.

“Edible – not good,” read the fading yellowed pages,

now crinkled and dull from years without use.

“I wish you were here today, Mum.”  

She describes the children’s antics, repeats innocent quotes,

while the forgotten fungus that sits drying on her table

is forgiven for not being the right kind,

and I try to forgive myself for not being there.

 

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