Thursday, October 4, 2018

Of the Fungi

You ask why mushrooms prefer
gloom with a biblical slump.
You wonder why their expressions
affix in such gaudy sculptures,
why they dance so motionless
on their single pseudopods.

All their plotting is underground—
cilia wired to the dynamo
that rotates the planet and sparks
dreams to penetrate the cramped
lair of the universal brain.

No use measuring yourself
against the cup or cusps of meat
that yield inevitable spores
to autumn’s tawny curlicues.
No point trying to empathize
with such a porous intellect.

My ornate language deployed
on such a humble outcropping
should satisfy your thirst for
a New York brand of intellect
dancing out of the Depression
to crush Paris, London, Rome
under tonnage of abstraction.

But instead of returning to books
you step further into the forest
and ask why some mushrooms sport
bruise-red caps while others
dim with potato-tinge, and some
accessorize with peeling shingles.

And what about coral fungi
and giant edible puffballs
cowering like frightened puppies?
What of the boletus, lacking gills?
What of those toxins brimming
on the tip of the cosmic tongue?                                     
I can’t resolve this nether world
for you, but I can brace myself
against its earthen deployment,
maintaining a thoughtful pose
until the evening deepens enough
to moot your interrogation.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


There must be a collective noun
for hawk-watchers on a mountain.
Drove? Paddling? Sloth? Bask? Clowder?
Mostly men in late middle age,
beards and baseball caps, sporting
binoculars and spotting scopes
worth more than my house. We note
their focus, their fixation on dots
barely discernible from cloud
above the gloomy neighboring peak.

You’re impressed that they believe
that at such terrible distance
they can sort broad-shouldered
from red-tail hawk. You admit
you can hardly tell a hawk from
a handsaw, but we agree that
effete literary allusions
have no place amid the krummholz
and exposed granite ledge,
no currency with hawk-watchers
guzzling bottled water and gazing
into the misty ephemera
to mark their count on the board.

I’m surprised to see osprey
listed among the aeronauts
counted for the sake of counting.
You’re startled to note peregrines
among the various raptors,
since you thought them European.
We’re all friends in the bird-world,
fellow travelers in the blue.
That blue today is cloud-marbled
with an elegant texture absorbing
the long arcs of flight. The shadows
cast by the clouds shuffle across
the wooded landscape below us.     

We agree that even combined
our eyesight wouldn’t allow us
to join the count. Eleven hundred
birds so far this season, each
a construction so elaborate
nothing human can approach it,
our most agile acts of intellect
still falling well short of flight.

Sunday, August 19, 2018


A bold orange mat of seaweed
coughed up on the pebbly shore.
Peering into its stringy texture,
I can almost taste its origin
on the mud-bottom where snails

pimple the filtered sunlight
and crabs stalk about and sneer.
You doubt that crabs actually sneer,
but admit they raise their large claws
with defiance, no matter the threat.

I don’t want to suggest that all such
gestures evolve toward the human,
but their weight outweighs the creature
itself. This mass of tangled weed
looks like the discarded toupee

of a disgruntled giant, maybe
a cyclops tired of seeing
the world in two dimensions.
Maybe you could try on a fistful
to cap your plain brown coiffure.

You don’t want this sea-slime mess
crowning your simple outlook?
I’d try it myself, but my lack
of dignity is landlocked, shy
of such brazen sea-wrought colors.

If I had the courage of a crab
or the persistence of a snail
I’d discard my ordinary clothes
and cloak myself in seaweed
and stalk abroad like Poseidon

in his entire godly anger.
I’d frighten the locals and laugh
a full-chested laugh you’d admire—
the only manly expression
your womanly wit couldn’t best.