Close-up image of a white umbrella mushroom.

My mother shows me how to pluck mushrooms;
she asks me to follow her into the bush,
a lagoon of plants and herbs, twigs and undergrowth
where sometimes snakes sneak under wet grasses
waiting for a spontaneous bite of intruders.
Every night my mother takes me with her;
we wade through the thicket of long leaves and thorns,
intricate shrubs intertwined with their long branches,
but our eyes are glued to the ground where the mushrooms are;
they are sleeping, silent and sullen in their blindness,
like frost-covered windscreens on London streets.
My mother is barefoot, with worn-out clothes around her waist,
but does not mind the cobwebs hanging on her hair
like my elder sister’s sleeping wig.
We stoop down to pick the umbrella mushrooms,
though my mother shoves me down with her left hand,
shoves me into her arms and picks with her right arm,
her left hand clutching me by the waist, firm and soft,
while I watch silently, the flickering yellow lantern
hanging on her forehead like a shocking spear.


Photo by Melissa LeGette, used and adapted under CC.