In this moist season,
mist on the lake and thunder
afternoons in the distance
they ooze up through the earth
5 during the night,
like bubbles, like tiny
bright red balloons
filling with water;
a sound below sound, the thumbs of rubber
10 gloves turned softly inside out.
In the mornings, there is the leaf mold
starred with nipples,
with cool white fishgills,
leathery purple brains,
15 fist-sized suns dulled to the color of embers,
poisonous moons, pale yellow.
Where do they come from?
For each thunderstorm that travels
overhead there’s another storm
20 that moves parallel in the ground.
Struck lightning is where they meet.
Underfoot there’s a cloud of rootlets,
shed hairs or a bundle of loose threads
blown slowly through the midsoil.
25 These are their flowers, these fingers
reaching through darkness to the sky,
that burst and powder the air with spores.
They feed in shade, on halfleaves
30 as they return to water,
on slowly melting logs,
deadwood. They glow
in the dark sometimes. They taste
of rotten meat or cloves
35 or cooking steak or bruised
lips or new snow.
It isn’t only
for food I hunt them
but for the hunt and because
40 they smell of death and the waxy
skins of the newborn,
flesh into earth into flesh.
Here is the handful
of shadow I have brought back to you:
45 this decay, this hope, this mouth-
ful of dirt, this poetry.