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THE FEAR-OF-TOADSTOOLS LADY /James Solheim Amanita, blewit, corpse finder— Because there's so much death out there, I never go outside. Step on a destroying angel And you track death right into the house, Where it dries to a dust that blows Everywhere in the ventilation, and next You're breathing poison every day. God, How terrifying to find a dead man's fingers On the backyard tree trunk, a dirty trich By the sandbox, a death cap in the junipers, A devil's egg in the potato patch. And they're so sudden!—everywhere They wait beneath us, the true toadstool A stringy body underground, much bigger Than the fruit, the part we see—which Springs up in a single night of rain. In the morning they're just there— Elf cup, false morel, stinky squid— Like death threats thrown from midnight limousines. These erections of the underworld— That's what they are, so cold And damp—grisette, hygrophoropsis, Imperial cat—we'll never tame them, never Stop them from erupting in our lawns like horrid Jack-in-the-boxes. Jack-o'-lanterns live In the woods near my house—some nights I stand in the window and watch them glow. I even avoid kurotake and morel— I've read the research. They have toxins too. I wash everything that comes in the house Because I know air's full of dust From liberty cap and nidularia, and I know The old man of the woods wants to seduce My children with his poison pie. Tm inclined to self-instruct The children, keep them home, 42 · The Missouri Review Away from quivering fungus and rhizopogon, But my husband thinks they need To learn to live. He says life means A little danger. I let them out But when they return I wash the turkey-tail From their eyelids, the devil's urn From their lunchpails. Man's split the atom But hasn't tamed the variegated mop, Which tells me nature is a chain reaction Much worse than the ones that man has made. Any grove could fester quite invisibly With witches' hats, witches' butter, Wolf's-milk slime, xylaria— Giving off a mushroom cloud worth fearing. I'm happy, though—don't think my staying in Is fear. I just believe it's sensible To step on no unruly earth, to risk No sudden sexual (or asexual) spurt Of yellow tuning fork or Zeller's bolete. I like right angles, good corners I can clean, The cold flat plane of window glass. Someday I'll go out, when I feel Like risking something—and oh, what drunken intensity Of living I'll feel then—inhaling panthers, Pigs' ears, hens of the woods—surviving To tell of my new life, lungs awhirl With sweet knot dust. I'll dance And dance, blooming with spores, till the day My body's claimed by corpse finders. James Solheim The Missouri Review · 43 ON THE LOGIC AND RADIATION OF OUR LOVE /James Solheim i. Venus casts a visible shadow, magnitude -4.4, On the earthworm with its hundred hearts. I say this because the worm has a hundred brains, Except its brains are only ganglia, its main brain's function To stop the worm, the worm just a muscle Flinching in the wet grass when the flashlight strikes. And the heart is a muscle, so the earthworm Is the heart. Which is why I fear the worms. They are as automatic as the reason I have not died. Science has not determined why, in rain, earthworms volunteer Suicidally unto their hell. The hell of earthworms Is our sidewalks, and their gods are cockeyed flying monsters. There is only one earthworm, because Their ecstasies are identical; therefore they are immortal. Yet they have no heaven, because all they have is earth, And human kings have proven: earth is no heaven. Yet I'm glad I'm no earthworm, glad I'm not the solution To problems worms solve. I believe I am more than the worm In my mouth, its quick pink exhortations. 3. Their goddess is Aphrodite, doubly. Their hearts are pure. Their marriages are eternal, and nights they rise...


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