AN ALIEN SPECIES
A stand of thick rubbery pads,
slices three feet in diameter.
Walking through them's like wading
through gelatin. Chunks break off,
white and meaty as chicken breast,
but the pulp suggests amanita:
one bite and you die of decay.
After a hundred yards the stand
peters out under tall white oak
and the familiar trail up Crotched
Mountain resumes. What strange vegetable
has evolved these architectural
fungus shapes? Surely they're mutants
of some tropical species attuned
to slow growth in warmer climates.
Here they've learned to grow quickly
and outwit the early frost
by seeding or sporing before
the cold topples them into mush.
I continue my hike to ledges
near the wooded summit. The view
south crumples like a throw rug.
Villages perk in the valleys,
growth rings of suburban sprawl
devouring the forest around them.
I'm afraid to return through that mass
of fungi, afraid it represents
the dead, for whom I'm expected
to feel some responsibility,
the tough beefy pads uplifted
like so many handfuls of prayer
offered to the mist in the trees.