Nothing Vanishes – Jan 19, 2012

Posted: January 19, 2012 in Samples of My Writing, Writing Posts

A poem for my mother, Hazel Hilles from Nothing Vanishes and Wrapped Within Again 

Higher Ground is also available.

Nothing Vanishes


My mother picks mushrooms
out in the bush, small hands
reaching between the thistles
perfectly, never once getting
nicked. She doesn’t worry about
picking poisonous ones.
She knows what they look like
and avoids them.
Her fingers, smelling musty
from all those mushrooms,
reach up from the earth
to touch me.

Mushrooms line the table
and she cuts through some
and washes others and she
offers me one and I look at it
for awhile and then
put it in my mouth,
never sure if it is poisonous or not.
Her fingers have remained young
despite everything.
As she cleans the dirt from
beneath a nail later,
she sings softly to herself.
I want to join in but don’t,
just listen as the past lingers
outside every window and all
I can taste is mushrooms for hours after.


She boils rice on the wood stove
and fries some of the mushrooms
and tastes one now and then.
She doesn’t care what I’m thinking
or what the fire begs her to do.
She ignores everything but her cooking—
the mushrooms pulled quickly, authoritatively
from the stove.

After supper my mother
puts the rest of the mushrooms
in the fridge hiding them
in various brown paper bags.
Tomorrow after I return to the city
she will continue to eat them,
looking at them on her plate,
gentle reassuring shapes.
For a moment they might look
ruined, all shrivelled there
waiting to be consumed,
becoming once more what the earth
expected. And as she eats them,
somewhere inside her she
loses and finds again her God.
Her soul is something she thinks of
as she looks at her young fingers.
Her son so far away calls to ask
about the mushrooms, but doesn’t,
asking about something else instead.


New mushrooms come up to replace
the ones she picks.
In a few weeks she will go out
to collect them, returning
to familiar rocks and trees.
Sometimes while picking mushrooms
she will kneel to pray,
the bush so quiet her heart
forms a thunder around her.
I can almost hear her prayers
as I imagine her kneeling before
a certain pine tree.
Its not the words I hear
but the murmurs between each word,
long and certain coming from
where I imagine her soul to be.
When she stands again her legs are shaky
and I reach out a hand to steady her
but touch the window of my office
instead. Opening my eyes
the city looks aimless as it
vanishes at the horizon.
The earth beneath her feet
supports her as my outstretched hand can not.


I don’t buy mushrooms in the supermarket
but walk past them and see my mother
turning her nose up at them,
tame and small on the counter.
She is what I will dissolve into.
I am what she has left the world
and my skin no different than hers
washes in the sunlight and does not
shine but reflects a dull image
of something bright.


I do not send her flowers or telegrams
just show up now and then,
expecting to eat mushrooms
and to talk.
When my plate is empty
I will lay down my knife and fork
knowing that when God comes
he can do no damage
or provide any answers,
because the only answers there are
I have already found:
my stomach full, the night
still a few hours off,
and my mother moving about
her small house as if
she were already in heaven.


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