Ode to the Mushroom

“The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely large.”

–Louis Pasteur

By Sharon Whitehill

How to react to a biome
that’s in between creature and plant, 
forms a kingdom all to itself?

Unlike those animals easy to love,
a dolphin that smiles back at me, 
or a soulful-eyed calf,
or the animals easy to loathe 
like the bobbit worm buried in sand, 
ready to scissor its prey;

unlike the emotions I feel 
when beholding a redwood 
or breathing the fragrance of peony blossoms
or recoiling from poison oak,
I confess I don’t know how to feel 
about mushrooms.

Their ancestors grew into spires 
that stilettoed the earth, 
later helped primitive plants become trees 
in whose roots they now thrive:
a vast network of organ systems 
that function as one complete body.

Mushrooms nestle in beds of organic decay,
bloom overnight into witch-hats, umbrellas, 
saucers, or funnels that fan out like skirts.
Whether ovoid or conical, nippled or flat,
some honeycombed into pits,
some baby-bum smooth,
some dusted with powder, 
some branched like corals or shingled with scales.

Some of their faces are waxy, or sticky, or slimy,
but none can outdo the hirsute: 
garbed in capes of bristles or goose-down,
coats fleecy, or spiked like a mace. 
Bleeding tooth, starfish, purple antlers, wrinkled peach—
how to respond to a throng so prolific?


Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s