White Mushrooms

The sun uses the leaves
like a strainer. What gets through
is language. It tastes of cool earth and sand,
smells a little of truffles. Resting
under the trees— not resting,
the light moves as the leaves
move—let’s stop there. I can’t say
what language is, where it goes,
the connection between the fists
of the fir tree and the platters
of the slim oak that reveal
the achingly gentle lift and fall
of the wind. I’ve never understood
the wind, its invisible force
in this world. Like gravity.
I can stare into the woods for days
pulling into that green blur
my own nonsense—feel
the trees on the outside of the stand
swaying while those inside are protected,
wishing to see only green but knowing
below, the slices and chips of brown,
deadnesses, and above, a kind of blue,
cloudy, clear, you name it—
gray-blue, marine-blue, sky-blue
sky, oh the painters are creative—
I used to think naming was knowing.
The ferns explode, they’re not fiddle-
heads but something else that grows
not by uncurling but by expansion—
that’s not it either. They start out
small and grow in direct proportion
till they’re bigger. I want to say now
lust is like that too—maybe, but lust defies
proportion, bulging innumerable
ways, like an animal trying to force
out of a balloon’s walls. Mushrooms
prod their ways from the slackened soil
after it rains, little white noses. Now I’ve fallen
out of it. Or it just can’t get through.

First published in Seneca Review, 2002. Copyright
© Melissa Stein.


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