paul1

GATHERING MUSHROOMS

As he knelt by the grave of his mother and father
the taste of dill, or tarragon-
he could barely tell one from the other-

filled his mouth. It seemed as if he might smother.
Why should he be stricken
with grief, not for his mother and father,

but a woman slinking from the fur of a sea-otter
In Portland, Maine, or, yes, Portland, Oregon-
he could barely tell one from the other-

and why should he now savour
the tang of her, her little pickled gherkin,
as he knelt by the grave of his mother and father?

*

He looked about. He remembered her palaver
on how both earth and sky would darken-
‘You could barely tell one from the other’-

while the Monarch butterflies passed over
in their milkweed-hunger: ‘A wing-beat, some reckon,
may trigger off the mother and father

of all storms, striking your Irish Cliffs of Moher
with the force of a hurricane.’
Then: ‘Milkweed and Monarch ‘invented’ each other.’

*

He looked about. Cow’s-parsley in a samovar.
He’d mistaken his mother’s name, ‘Regan, ‘ for Anger’;
as he knelt by the grave of his mother and father
he could barely tell one from the other.

Paul Muldoon, from Selected Poems: 1968 – 2014, new from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.