my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Mary Oliver

Rain, and then
the cool pursed
lips of the wind
draw them
out of the ground—
red and yellow skulls
pummeling upward
through leaves,
through grasses,
through sand; astonishing
in their suddenness,
their quietude,
their wetness, they appear
on fall mornings, some
balancing in the earth
on one hoof
packed with poison,
others billowing
chunkily, and delicious—
those who know
walk out to gather, choosing
the benign from flocks
of glitterers, sorcerers,
panther caps,
shark-white death angels
in their torn veils
looking innocent as sugar
but full of paralysis:
to eat
is to stagger down
fast as mushrooms themselves
when they are done being perfect
and overnight
slide back under the shining
field of rain.

Mary Oliver, "Mushrooms" from New and Selected Poems, 
Beacon Press 2005

Alan King has a web site    in which he posits that this poem is about racial profiling. I think this is a stretch... but I can see his point. I always find it interesting to see how people interpret poems to fit their view of the world. That is what makes poetry so cool. Here is his quote:

On the surface, “Mushrooms” is a praise poem for the different species of mushrooms the speaker finds “astonishing”. But underneath the “leaves,/ […] grasses,/ […and] sand,” this could be a poem about racial profiling. The mushrooms “packed with poison” are metaphors for people who show aggression. Looking at that metaphor in the context of slavery, the slave owner would’ve considered the rebellious slaves as poisonous mushrooms.

I found dozens of mushrooms popping up through my yard.  I was fascinated to see the forcefulness with which they came up through the ground. Notice the dirt clinging to their "skulls."  



Loretta said...

Pam, much as I like Mary Oliver's poem, I must say that I like your pictures even better.

marie-josé said...

They are evanescent creatures, aren't they? Light, passing, delicious---specially sauteed with garlic... And tricky sometimes, as they can kill. (They can also give you hallucinations, bring you to another type of reality.) I never thought how good a metaphor for life mushrooms could be, but Mary Oliver managed to awaken that notion.

Of course, when I think of mushrooms, I also think of my father, who knew how and where to pick them. Of one of my uncles, who brought mushroom knowledge to an almost scientific level. Of mushroom omelettes. That is part of the delicious part of my past, that I must keep.

And Loretta is right, those are damn good photos of mushrooms, Pam.