We broke slim boughs to stir
and sift the leaf-mould.
I was befogged by earth-colours,
my earthbound sight an Axminster
of swirling oak-leaves, beech-mast,
till I had trimmed my focus
to detail, even acquired
a touch of your magical foresight.
Seroyeshky, you called them:
mushrooms for eating raw,
but better cooked, you said,
in spite of the nickname.
Some were pale red, some amber;
the slugs had frilled their edges
and nipped small coins from them:
still, they were beautiful,
thrusting up stoutly,
lifting the thatch of their caves,
and yet most breakable,
their spore-weight light as grass.
The Pinner woods were glowing
in a Muscovite sunset
as we brought home our catch.
You cleaned them and fried them
to a milky gloss;
eagerly we dipped our forks.
The bitterness was astounding.
We’ve been warned, I said.
Whatever else they look like,
whatever they are, elsewhere,
here, they are toadstools,
here, our enemies.
And so we abandoned them
– our prized seroyeshky, love-sick
fantasies of tasting
the past, or another’s country.