Today's poem is by Chris Agee


Nothing stills the woods to silence
like the aftermath of rains, the meadow-crickets quenched,
the boughs and saplings of birch and pine

dropping their desultory plops, shining
here and there with sunshafts from parted cloud
whose mottle on moist leaf-litter

is a moss of light. This is the inspired time
the Greeks felt the mystery of Zeus,
the lightning's muse

in the dark labour of fungi. Vicarious as the uprush
of poetry, the delicate caps of mushrooms
thrust through the earth's rot, half-masked by a layer of leaves,

by mossy vestiges of treetrunks
holed by woodpeckers,
birch-logs broken-backed like tumbled pillars of alabaster,

branches fallen in autumn
where Indian pipe sprouts on bark
and a meandering wall is Frost's art

like lichen on the stones of Nineveh. A paradise of phalloi
mushrooming in damp, all named and infused
by the genius of fieldwork,

in the Eden of amateur mycology:
Chanterelle, Thimble-cap, Velvet-footed Pax,
the ochre, Latinate splendour

of Voluminous Milky
with its fishstink and profusion of latex:
each under-cap a haven for slugs,

a language all its own,
neither prose nor song,
not animal, yet not quite plant,

their svelte ethereal flesh
and tinges of extraordinary colour
the Zen of life,

a quickening blush of humus
in one-day miracles of the world's design
like haikus in the woodland epic of birth and decay.

Copyright © 2003 Chris Agee All rights reserved
from First Light
Dedalus Press / Dufour Editions
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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