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This article is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

Smuts and Shrooms Lisa Kelly
In Search of Cowbane Rust

Daughter, Son, some rusts are rare
Their hosts are rare, that’s why
If I’m long gone, don’t despair
I’m on the Broads with watchful eye

Their hosts are rare, that’s why
I paddle down Wheatfen dyke
I’m on the Broads with watchful eye
Slipping off with otter and pike

I paddle down Wheatfen dyke
Checking for cowbane at the edge
Slipping off with otter and pike
Fingers brushing willow and sedge

Checking for cowbane at the edge
I found clumps, but none had rust
Fingers brushing willow and sedge
Hope of a parasite come to dust

I found clumps, but none had rust
If I’m long gone, don’t despair
Hope of a parasite come to dust
Daughter, Son, some rusts are rare

Red Data List of Threatened British Fungi: Mainly Smuts

Smut, lie down with me in annual meadow grass that tickles
our pelts. Smut, be barley covered and reeking of beer,
a bearberry redleaf prim on each pinkish part. Smut, with your bedstraw hair,
bestow no interloper a bird’s eye view. My promise, a primrose
with its fairy caretaker that no bog asphodel, no bone-breaker
will I brook, smut. As a chick weeds out a worm, I will weed out
all burrowing doubts, all jealousies, all winter green looks
on our love, smut, which would shrivel us, smut. Smut, be not false.
This oat-grass ring, I twine about your finger, smut.
Think of me when a foxtail, smut, lifts to expose a gland,
stinking of March violets, to deceive you, smut.
They’d have you frogbit, smut, back in the pond where you
were spawned, mounted and belly grasped. Glaucus sedge creeps
in damp ditches, smut. Weep for such green hell bore away
with earth’s daughter, smut. Loose your hair. See how sedge flowers in spikelets,
smut, and love always pricks. Lie down with me in meadow grass that tickles
our pelts. Revel in mudwort, smut. I could call you close to Limosella, smut,
cloaked in tiny white stars, a northern bilberry redleaf prim on each pinkish part.
Passion marks us, smut, with a purple small-reed stripe, smut.
My rare spring sedge, smut, tender as fresh shoots.
My reed canary-grass, smut, sensitive to noxious airs. Saxifrage smut,
I cannot help but repeat saxifrage smut, the brassy instrument of you played.
Sing of prickly yuletide, sea holly smut. They are small spored
with their white beaks, sedge smut, poking and prodding and stinking, smut.
They are not sweet – they confuse carnal with vernal, smut.
Damn the white beak-sedge, smut, worn by quacks as if we were plague, smut,
with their aromatic herbs, smut. What rare pathogens we are, smut.
What gall smut, to detest our dark teliospores. Yellow toadflax
on them all, the cowards that croak. Yellow toadflax on them all, smut.

Mushroom to Svamp

How fungi transform material, we admire
as Google, from English to Swedish,
translates mushroom into svamp.

A beautiful word, a swamp-cum-vamp,
a siren emerging from a quagmire
to appeal to our fetishistic death wish.

Alice in IKEAland swallows SVAMP
regurgitates a lamp. We may desire
a frosted orange agaric, but our outlandish

dream is out of stock. Alice has SVAMPIG,
a grey/white sponge, the soft side, a dish-
cloth, the coarse side for stains that require

more vigorous cleaning. SVAMPIG
commands, Wet before use. No PISH-
SALVER, Drink me, but she aspires

not to shrink, nor whirl in the gyre –
O Thanatos, into Swedish
you translate. Spongy is SVAMPIG.

Mushroom Machine

1. The urge to begin with ‘I’
Must be resisted. This default mode
Close to the manufacturer’s setting
Most users would probably choose.
Brain at wakeful rest, daydreaming
About which lock ‘I’ fits
To start the whole engine churning.

2. Alan Turing is on the new £50 note.
His nephew says he should be remembered,
Not primarily for code breaking, but for
Asking, ‘Can machines think?’
Our smartphones can write plausible poetry.
The Computer’s First Christmas Card
Does not begin iwishyou.

3. Professor Adamatzy inserted electrodes
in oyster mushrooms and held a flame
to the cap of one. Other fruiting bodies
responded in the mycelial network
with a sharp electrical spike –
potential for fungal computers
and mycelium as environmental sensors.

4. Time of year: autumn; adjective: electric;
Two singular nouns, not normally
In the same sentence: mushroom, machine;
Another adjective: pale; verb: signals.
Electric autumn
An oyster mushroom signals
Beyond the machine*

* Poem Generator: Create a Haiku in Seconds

Scarlett Caterpillar Club

Who begot the gap must gawp at the gape
between species crossed

What sort of society are you?
Sounds like one I’d wish to join –
vivid, kind of cute, definitely can-do
with undulating segments and all those implied legs.

I look you up for entry requirements:
Are you a fan of the great outdoors?
You might enjoy grasslands or woodlands.
Looking for a change – willing to metamorphose?

Yes, that’s me, an Emperor Moth caterpillar.
I’m up for selection; to be sprinkled with special spores.
Just the lucky few, mind. We get to settle down
in sexy soil or luxurious leaflitter. Begin to pupate.

O, to be in an exclusive club. The thought of it
turns your insides to mush, causes your head to explode
with a bright orange fungus. Club motto:
Need it like a hole in the head.

Alternate Reality

Because sometimes there are bits of ourselves we just can’t deal with.
Coping mechanisms are exhausted.
Dead inside sort of describes it –
everything is too much effort and we crave
feelings, aliveness, call it fecundity. The hospitalised
guy who injected himself with psilocybin,
his name withheld, could be any one of us,
imposters in the great game of surviving ups and downs,
just hanging on, and when Polly puts the
kettle on, why not make it a brew worth the risk of kidney failure,
liver failure. Surely,
magic comes with risk and boiling down shrooms into a mushroom tea, after
noting the potential therapeutic effects of hallucinogens in
online research is understandable, relatable.
Psychoactive effects from psilocybin could be a miracle cure, but the
question is, how we do things –
recreationally or destructively.
Shrooms leading to multisystem organ failure, fungus growing in your blood,
treatment in intensive care, and a prescription of long-term antifungal drugs is
ugly and unexpected despite any compensating
vivid flashbacks, or in medical terms, hallucinogenic-induced persisting deception disorder.
What are we going to do with reality?
Xtc, etc. is illegal, but taking the edge off with a natural high –
you have at least thought about it haven’t you? The relief of reaching an alternate
zone of being.

This article is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this article to
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