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Poetry and Prose

A Taxonomist’s Lament
(Mushroom Study)


First, you name its habitat,
Woods or pastures, hill or flat.
Under just what tree it grows,
If a preference it does show?
Is it single, caespitose,
Or gregarious and close?
Next its pileus or cap,
All these features you must map.
Color, texture, size and shape,
Nothing must your eye escape.
Is its margin involute?
And in age does it upshoot?
Is it glabrous (smooth) or not,
Viscid (sticky) or somewhat?
Does its color change when bruised
To pink or black or lovely blues?
Then the lamellae you take,
Saying gills is a mistake.
Color, shape, and size of them,
Grown to or quite free from stem?
But this stem you must call a “stipe”
Tell unerringly its type.
What you never, never do
When picking is to cut it through.
You must have the whole of it
Or descriptions will not fit.
Is it bulbous, is it thin,
Hollow or with stuff within?
Has it scales or annulus
That’s the ring, contrarious,
For it makes you want to swear
It so often isn’t there.
Next a spore-print must be made,
Note each slightest tinge or shade.
Lilac may as white be classed,
Cream, as ochre-spored, alas!
Spores require a microscope,
or with them you cannot cope.
Size and shape again you note,
Tho they’re tiny as a mote.
Last you take your books – a lot
One may give it, one may not.
Now you know the nomenclature,
You can hunt without ill nature.
So search with greatest care,
Offering up a fervent prayer.
But, O hell!! You tear your hair!
You cannot find it anywhere!!

Mrs. Morton A. Gibbs,
San Francisco

The mushroom is the elf of plants,
At evening it is not;
At morning in a truffled hut
It stops upon a spot

As if it tarried always;
And yet its whole career
Is shorter than a snake's delay,
And fleeter than a tare.

'Tis vegetation's juggler,
The germ of alibi;
Doth like a bubble antedate,
And like a bubble hie.

I feel as if the grass were pleased
To have it intermit;
The surreptitious scion
Of summer's circumspect.

Had nature any outcast face,
Could she a son condemn,
Had nature an Iscariot,
That mushroom, --it is him.

A poem by Emily Dickinson
Spring Mushrooms He's Gone "After Mushrooms"!

It's quite a sight
To See a Hawk Wing in flight
But what goes up, returns again
Sarcodon Im-break-atum

Said the Princess to the Prince
You just aren't my type,
And you do smell ripe
Quite disgustus, Augustus'

Said the Rex to the Regius
I'm the brave Spring King, Boletus
Royalty you're not, For Shore
Tho Regal you be, you're yellow to the core.

Bill McGuire

The highway. Ditches. Woods. 
We wander off before light
After mushrooms, and we mark
The mileposts left and right.
We leave the open highway.
We scatter, ranging through
The forest gloom; we ramble
Ankle-deep in dew.
Through thickets deep in dark
The spears of sunlight rush
On brown and yellow mushrooms
Under every bramblebush.
They hide among the stumps
Where birds alight to rest,
And when we lose ourselves,
The shadows guide our quest.
So brief these autumn days
And sunset solitudes,
The twilight has no chance
To linger in the woods.
Our bags and baskets burst
With gathered stock before
We leave for home:  pine mushrooms
Make almost half our store.
Behind our backs the dark
Still forest walls arise,
And, beautiful in death,
The day flames bright and dies.

Boris Paternak

A Man Named Credible Hugh

Early this morn at my door there came a Knockin
Wondered I, what could this shill be Hawkin

Half asleep from my late mornin Nappin
Opened the front door to that incessant Tappin

There stood a man still wet from the mornin Dew
Carryin baskets of pretty things all too well I knew

Call me Hugh, I'm not one to boast or my name would be Toast
Fresh from mornin pickin, Craterellus, Canthrellis,and Horn O'Plenty

Well Sir Hugh, said I, How Do You Do? Those shrooms are Incredible!
True said this strange man named Hugh, cold and pale as a Ghost

They're for you, the price is right, I'm from Bragg and I'm Credible
Then like my breath in the cold air, he was gone, this man named Hugh

I tell you this strange tale lest some morn bright and Clear
At your front door a pale ghostly man named Hugh should'st Appear

Carryin bags wet and glistening from the cold morning Dew
Take my word, he's quite Credible, this incredible stranger
from Bragg called Credible Hugh.

Bill McGuire


Did you hear the evening song

By Bill McGuire

Rain! Rain! Rain! That incessant chorus filled the evening air, those tiny tree frogs with the huge voices befitting an accomplished Irish tenor, or an old rusty prairie windmill in need of lubrication, loudly predicting this morn's pattering sound of rain on the tin roof and gurgling in the downspout, invoking instant visions of huge fresh boletes and golden chanterelles just as has been promised.

And now, the long wait, the long dormant mycelium busily drinking up the new life giving moisture, must soon yield to the call of renewal, swelling, and then thrusting it's reproductive bodies up through the sodden duff to repeat once again it's age old ritual.