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Self-Portrait as Mushroom

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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.

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