Summoned at three, I soothe my daughter’s cries
and, turning back toward bed, turn off her light.
Out of the dark, a galaxy appears,
pale stars scattered across the plaster skies
by some other child who thought this room at night
would be his always. The moons, the meteors—
all his hours spent peeling and arranging—
for two years now have hung above my head
entirely unnoticed. The old wives’ tale
says all the stars whose light we see are dead,
but that’s not true. We fail to see them changing
as they change. And on this closer, human scale
and present tense, this room, this child I’ve kissed,
this night will always and never quite exist.
Shiitake, velvet foot, hen of the woods, wood ear, cloud ear, slippery jack, brown wreaths of Polish borowik dried and hanging in the stalls of a Krakow market—all these were years away from the room where I lay once, studying the contours of your sex as if it were some subterranean species I’d never encounter again. Because I hadn’t yet tasted oyster—not even portobello— when I thought mushroom, I meant the common white or button, the ones my mother bought for salads or served in butter beside my father’s steak. First taste of love, or toxic look-alike, there was your stalk and cap, the earth and dark, our hunger, wonder, and need. Even now, I can’t identify exactly what we were, or why, some twenty years later, learning you lay dying—were in fact already dead, suspended by machines if not belief—I thought first of your living flesh, the size and shape of you. My amanita phalloides, that room was to exist forever, as a field guide or mossy path, even if as we foraged, we did not once look back.