Carol Rumens

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.