Brewing the False Morel

written by Eileen Walsh Duncan

They appear to be brains on stems, undulate and crouched,
the blooms of a spongy body that lurks underground.
A crude mimic of the real morel, that’s prized for its nutty flavor
and pliant length on a plate. Damp with toxin, the false morel lures 
those who lack an eye for detail, who fail to ensure
that delicate pits girdle the cap, signaling safety.

Entranced by their danger, we hunt for them with gloves
that seem to glow in the shade, make our wrists
and fingers smooth and stout. Enchanted, we follow clues 
to the humps or hollows where they rise. We carry them in sacks
back to the kitchen, where knives and pots await. 

Sliced open, the stems of false morel are solid; 
their fibrous innards give them away. Our gloved
hands grip, dismember. The texture
will be cottony or meaty: follow the recipe carefully
when working with toxins. Read and reread.

Lobed and lumpy, they float, begin to rotate 
along the pot’s edge as the first boil nears. 
Bring it to boil, drain, rinse, fill the pot, boil, ten times.
That is the spell. Enlist the laws of chemistry, fire, and water
to do our bidding. 

Water takes in all things, even neurotoxin,
carries all in its invisible mouth down the drain
like it knows where it’s going. 

Limp in a cream sauce, the twisty remains
appease our tongues. We toiled all day for this, 
to eat what’s left when the poison is gone.

Eileen Walsh Duncan‘s poems have appeared in numerous journals including The Washington State Geospatial Poetry Anthology, Off the Coast, Hubbub, Seattle Review, Switched-on Gutenberg, Crab Creek Review, Pontoon, Fault Lines Journal, Cascadia Review, Pure Francis, and Seattle’s Poetry on the Buses. She received the Bentley Award from Seattle Review, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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