Crickets are stitching the afternoon
together. What the squalling catbird rends,
crickets relentlessly repair. The maple shivers,
sends yellowed messages sailing down.
Too much has ripped: half the main branch cracked off
and hangs, teetering, across lower boughs
leaving, on the trunk, a blond wound.
We cross the brook on stepping stones and climb
west up the mountain flank through laurel thickets,
along the scooped-out valley of beeches, up
the stream bed to sit on a fallen tree. But there’s
no rest. We carry with us what we left
below—a country clawing its very idea
to shreds. The scarlet boletus mushroom
prongs from decaying wood. In its bishop’s
amaranth skull cap, it stands its ground. One kind
will nourish; the other sickens. But not,
like the white amanita, bringing on
liver failure, seizures, death.
Copyright © 2021 by Rosanna Warren. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This is very much a poem of the United States in 2020, beset with threats. Just beyond the borders of the natural scene, a pandemic storms, and militias and militant political lies tear the fabric of democracy. All this violence is obliquely visible in the poem in the bird cries, the wounded tree, the poisonous mushrooms.”