Janet Barkhouse is an emerging poet with a taste for
wild mushrooms. Her chapter book for young readers, Sable Island
- Imagine! was published by Curriculum Plus, Toronto.
Stalking mushrooms is a quiet business. They
hunker down, I swear, if they hear you coming,
behind mossy rocks, beneath bracken
and fern, so I am silent
except for mosquito whine and deerfly buzz haloing
my sweaty head. Even squirrels
and jays have succumbed
Surely I shadow my ancestors who must have done
just this, meandered
beside brown water that trickled, gleamed
through a hundred greens, minds relieved
of less happy chores, eyes casting
for gorgeous food: golden wrinkled Chanterelles,
black Horn of Plenty, Tamarack Jacks
shiny as chestnuts just peeled
from their husks.
I sever each from its base,
favourite curved paring knife
close to the earth. My fingers
plop each in the basket
lined with yesterday's news: Seven More Dead
in Afghanistan; Nationwide Hunt for Father
of Murdered Three. A Delicious Lactarius, candy-orange pink
with aqua freckles, betrays a whole camp of Red-Cracked Boletes.
I am wielding my tiny scimitar left and right
when I hear an alien crya whinny,
a bellingof terror. I freeze,
disoriented: a scrabbling, a crashing,
and again a sickening cry. Look!
A fawn is running, plunging, gangly legs
flying, soft coat dappled as the wood
it lunges through. Dark shadow follows
as shadows must.
The shadow rebels, leaps
on the fawn, who struggles, sobs, falls. No!
I spring forward, clap my hands No!
My mushrooms swirl over the scurf of forest floor,
blue jays shriek, squirrels clatter. The coyote whirls,
nails me with its empty eyes, speeds
back up its trail. The fawn, caught
between horrors, scrambles hard after.