Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Mushrooms on the Roadside
after the Protests, 2020

My friend is trying
to explain mushrooms
to me the way one describes
children, even though they close
my throat, swell the tissues
so my eyes are shut, fingers
unable to bend what for the
fluid released when mushrooms
attack. She is tall and Black and I am
small and Jewish and we are both
glorious and ruined in our own ways.
My friend’s leather satchel hits her hip
as she knives tiny wood ears into her palm,
as though each little fungus can hear what
her hand has to say but won’t tell us. And

as my friend points to another,
the tufted yellow of hen of the woods
with its skirt ripple gracing the tree bark,
I am careful not to ingest them the way she is careful
not to have a child. And my friend is talking
about decomposition which makes us laugh
because we are writers but also sad because of dead things

and also curious, nearly joyful because dead things
give way to others: dead apple tree on its side
is the home for morels and these large umbrella
yellows of hen of the woods announce themselves
on our walk and there, poking up from the end
of my driveway—right where a delivery person discarded
a package, a walker’s cigarette butt, someone’s forgotten
takeout, all of which will lead to their sooner end—
are small pink caps blanketing the late

September grass which itself is already passing,
and we are both struck with the pinkness, the soft
underside gills of these tiny ruinous things,
alive and dead both, the way of all past,
and we are surprised and delighted, horrified
all at once by everything ending and beginning
right in front of us when we had simply gone
for a walk to appreciate one of these autumn days
in which you seem to go on, open, and on.  

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