Royalty of Rot – by Taylor Graham

Early morning January jacket time,
alligator lizard shelters under the woodpile.
I’m off for a walk on icy winter grass,
through miner’s lettuce, and here’s
a lovely fungus – antique-gold inverted bowl,
partly eaten by some woods creature
who knows what’s safe and what isn’t; and here
another, pleated edges and scribed with scrimshaw.
And this one, like a pancake waiting for syrup
but underneath, it has gills.
Here are dark-gray Goblets smooth-lipped
as a magic potion. Keep walking.
Wander. In the boneyard, a new species.
Plug it into plant-ID app,
it comes out Desert Truffles. Decades ago
in black-spruce forest, in a poem I wondered,
is it poison or a prince? A royalty of rot.
Keep my hands to myself.
            Every single one is magic.

Taylor GrahamTaylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler and served as El Dorado County’s inaugural Poet Laureate (2016-18). Her poems are included in California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Heyday Books), Villanelles (Everyman’s Library), and California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology. Latest book: Windows of Time and Place (Cold River Press).