|Tom lives in Massachusetts.|
© 2004 Tom Sheehan
Searching for Mushrooms and
came out of West Lynn or East Saugus years ago,
mushroom seekers, with their long-pieced poles,
own language whose word for amanita,
the initiate, would tell where their roots
whether they were Florentine, Roman,
islander, Piana di Cartani.
might say Cocoli, Coconi
delicacies growing thirty or forty feet
on the great elms in the circled green
Cliftondale Square, those huge sky-reaching elms
fell to the hurricanes of '38,
Carol in the 50s, finally to the toll of traffic
cut down to size.
in a thick fog, on my third floor porch,
mist yet memorable,
remember thinking the elms were
Gardens in the Clouds.
felt a bloom
in me, a taste
don't come for amanita anymore
the elms have all gone,
lofty gardens, those mighty furrowed limbs;
shrubs and bushes stand in their place you can
do the streetcars come anymore
Lynn into Cliftondale Square.
say the old yellow and orange ones,
long-electric-armed at each end,
ones off the Lynn-Saugus run,
in Brazil or Argentina or the street car museum
far as we are concerned,
clanging, rollicking machines that
pennies on the tracks so that good Old Abe
a complete mystery,
the Indian Chief
flat and as charmless, him and his background,
my porch high on the square,
watch thin long poles extending men's arms,
of poles they'd fit together,
they reached for the white-gray knobs
in cloudy limbs.
wore red or blue kerchiefs around thick necks,
Saturday's movie cowboys if you could believe it,
if any moment they could slip them over their faces and hide
in such bright disguises.
cut or tap loose the amanita, see it fall slowly
over end like a field goal or a point after,
out of the upper limbs,
a slowest curve and halved orbit,
they'd swish butterfly nets to catch the aerial
it might be;
their women, in kerchiefs and drawn in
almost hidden away,
an upward sweep of gay aprons
catch the somersaulting fungi,
amanita colyptraderma, or
from Piana di Cartania, calling out its name
Coconi or Coccori,
Mediterranean's rich song airing itself
the green grass of Cliftondale Square,
was never privy to know their roots,
harsh voyages, to know where they landed and why,
now their sounds are lost forever, their voices across
square, the gay and high-pitched yells
a brazen mist on Brahmin Cliftondale,
glee as a soft white clump of fungi went loose from its roost,
down to net, swung apron, or quick hat
if a magician worked on stage in the square,
for Russula Delica,
Cocoli Trippati, Veal Scaloppine,
Mushroom Tripolati, Risotto Milanaise,
plain old Brodo dei Funghi.
these years later I know the heavens of their kitchens,
sweet blast front hallways could loose,
sauce pots fired up your nose,
hunger could begin
a full stomach
Mrs. Forti cooked or Mrs.Tedeschi
Mrs.Tura way over there at the foot
and I grasp for the clang-clang of the trolley cars,
their short existence, the clash of rods and bars
to the nth degree, of iron wheel on
to where we ear-waited
the line with
crackers' or torpedoes' quick explosions,
the whole jangling car shaking
a vital Liberty Ship I'd come to know intimately
later on a dreadful change of tide.
be those hard wooden seats
thick enamel paint peeled off by a fingernail
you left her initials and yours
the back of a seat,
if today someone in Buenos Aires
Brasilia rubs an index finger
the pair of us that has not been together
more than fifty years. But somehow,
the gray air today,
a vault of lost music
itself from the other end of town,
pairing continues, and the amanita,
its dark song-rich gardeners,
I taste it rarely these days,
the shaky ride the streetcars gave, for all of a nickel
an often-early evening, softest yet in late May,
away the iron cries and, oh, that rich Italiana.
up on the bank
an old man getting into bed.
gull perfects a theft,
a drastic turn in air
could break bones.
do my walks
like perimeter guard,
way I carried a carbine
there at 23,
the pound of it to an ounce;
of the scabbard hangs on.
rather the river
the tired water's run
76 years weigh a heavy canteen.
like a river's
and fro against the sea,
catch of kelp, air sting
of briny sea's salad smells,
anger, always earth-dig,
and rock-wear, drag on the moon,
ship ghosts and canvas call.
river's never lonely:
grass by bank and levee
nests of redwing blackbirds
away like keys in a pocketbook,
scum of illegal drain, used rubbers,
high and proud as Fourth of July
ready for the final match to strike,
waiting for the ultimate revolution,
of time like Ford fenders, Chevy wheels,
behind the minister's house where the slope
steep and you don't have to work hard to belabor
river that's been harder at living for longer than us.
measure all the contributors
Saugus has from here to the sea;
cops say garbage in garbage out:
I think the birds die,
river dies, bank grass gets burned
flame ever on the make,
is sludge of tune-up residue,
of dark foam makes images
mill turns its back
the chemicals burn even the spigot,
landfill the contractor brazened out
sour where fish hesitate to cast their lot,
service station leaks into the underground
roots linger and grease takes its time.
gives his gifts in direct pipe drop,
his back like the mill does,
he doesn't hurt the Saugus.
blue trout have gone,
move away from oily contributions,
pass by and don't know the river's terror
that hurts more than all.
me my mystic choice
wind's blowing out to sea
I am on my perimeter walk at river bank,
no other joy. Upriver comes down,
and field fall on me, woodland
cut hay hurries itself, a new salad of smell.
and rabbit and deer and such merry folk
talk and tale crown the river air, give hope,
over me, say river does not die.
away. Losing. Six o'clock Fridays.
departure for work. Wood choppers.
escort and ambulance. Town Hall offices.
Cemetery in May like popcorn.
having enough money at the checkout counter
hardly enough food).
deep breath any place on the Turnpike.
Press halfway burned down.
men's room in McCarrier's.
Inn Diner at six Monday morning.
doctor's waiting room. MBTA buses.
who don't believe me. Viet Nam veterans
of their eyes. The whole town the night
Fellows Hall burned right to the bricks.
carnival. Pop Warner refreshment stands.
High locker rooms for a thousand years.
rooms and back stairs at nursing homes.
most of all the river smells.
speak of alternatives.
know of none for river place.
seen upriver dredging fall
to politics and budget stress.
in the bottom of my tackle box,
worn hook and worm and salmon egg,
a picture of the 17-incher from years ago.
I wait for crystal dreams, the flow
white waters, Earth being lapped clean
whole sing-song length of banks,
flashing beneath arching alders
boulders ease in their washing,
bones of the old river
up like trail skulls,
trout find their memories
and turbulent and explosive
all down the river's curves.
All work is copyrighted property of Tom Sheehan.
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