Trekking to the village to dunk
my sorrows in a cup of joe
I note in the roadside rubble
a mushroom with an agony
of inlaid countenance. Maybe
some underground demon manifest.
Maybe the vegetable spirit
attempting to express itself.
A neighbor in a black pickup
slows to ask if I need a ride,
but like Emerson I’m eager to meet
nature face to face. But this
isn’t the face of nature. Peering
at the agony I recognize
the face I shave every morning
and have to confess aloud
that this isn’t only a likeness
but my private mushroom self
exposed to joggers, bicyclists,
and leashed golden retrievers.
I’d like to say this is a self
portrait as mushroom, but which
self has suffered this misery
so deeply sculpted in fungus?
I pause long enough to acknowledge
my presence in this icon, then step
off toward the village as quickly
as my creaky framework allows.
Good thing mushrooms can’t speak.
But even as I distance my human
façade from that vegetable mask
I feel an underground rumble
link it to me and threaten
to erupt into noise some passing
wag could mistake for applause.