28 February 2022

#28 - The Devil's Fingers

 If it seems too good to be true…

After the Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri)

The devil’s fingers play a cheerful tune;
salvation in a lively major key.
“You want to reach the stars, the sun, the moon?
“Then, move your feet and bind yourself to me!”

The devil’s fingers lightly graze your skin – 
he whispers promises, composed of dust.
There’s something shifty in his shiftless grin;
the genesis of arrogant disgust.

A shiver xylophones along your ribs
and plays an anxious rhythm on your spine.
Demonic in his scheming, he ad-libs
an anthem, so bewitching and malign.

The devil chooses victims carefully 
and lures them with deceitful melodies. 


Listen to the poet perform the poem here.

Image via wikipedia

27 February 2022

#27 – Goblet Parachute

Fay Roberts takes a sip from Marasmiellus vaillantii

My family is huge, a sprawling tribe,
though few of us are colourful or quaint;
we’re mostly just defined by what we ain’t.
(In fact: you might say that’s how we survive…)
We’ve never been afraid of shift or jibe,
just here between the sinners and the saints;
how many of us truly free from taint?
(Mind: some of us are known to take a bribe…)

But every generation has its sport –
the one who stands out taller than the rest
(or sinks so they can creep beyond the pale).
Some branches turn out just as they were taught
(while others are a pestilential guest),
and some a selfless shelter from the gale.

– FR

A cluster of many tiny, dead-white, delicate mushrooms on a dark, damp-looking trunk, The caps are quite shallow, with pale, veiny gills occasionally showing below.
Photo from this research paper. Description in alt-text.

Marasmiellus vaillantii was incredibly hard to track down (which tracks for such a small part of a massive and widespread genus), so this was pretty much inspired by the family more than the individual.

26 February 2022

#26 - Contorted Strangler

 (Elizabeth McGeown)

Squamanita contortipes

This one is not the sonnet I had planned.
It would have been a cautionary tale
of London-based Victoriana and
a gentleman who felt his life was stale.

He thought of it as 'roughing it' when he
performed his daily constitutional
along the alleys and the lanes and breathed
raw sewage mixed with perfume that was all

around. He watched the ladies peddle wares.
He helped one to her feet when drunk, she fell.
He walked her homeI want to shout beware!
But that's not what I'm here tonight to tell.

A man whose gross ambition makes him bold
wants Europe in his frenzied stranglehold.


Image via thetravel.com

25 February 2022

#25 - Dead Moll's Fingers

(Russell J Turner)

Xylaria longipes

...a 2008 study concluded that the species could improve wood for the purposes of making violins...’

Though none know when the music will begin

a quiet comes unbidden to the crowd,

the lighting fades beneath a breathless shroud

enveloping the hard white ghosts within.

She slides under that scarred and tattooed skin

which speaks of crimes we dare not name aloud,

she rises up in smoke reborn, unbowed

as dead moll’s fingers pluck the violin.

Her pizzicato stories tell of thieves

who exercise control through misery,

a melody that separates then weaves

those tapestries of dumb complicity

for we must all bear witness to our sin

when dead moll’s fingers pluck the violin.


24 February 2022

#24 - Chicken of the Woods

When I said I wanted to get out of this town, I didn’t mean it like this 

After Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)

A forest, ominous, beyond the town – 
you can’t recall it being there before.
Its churning gravity, its up and down,
all undulating with forbidden lore.

Of course, you wander forward, through the trees 
half apprehensive, half compelled to try.
The ancient ivy curls in filigrees. 
The undergrowth is filled with glowing eyes. 

A cabin comes towards you, lumbers down;
dodecahedron-shaped, on chicken legs.
You wonder why you ever left the town,
You’ll never eat another sodding egg. 

The hut gives chase – you don’t know what you’ve done. 
No time to ruminate – you have to run! 


Listen to the poet perform the poem here.

Image via wikipedia

#23 – Bald Knight

Fay Roberts tells the true Templar tale of a species of Melanoleuca melaleuca

The herald asks for all the kingdom’s news,
and Nigel knows it’s time for him to speak.
No – not for him the silence of the queues;
Sir Nige has never hidden or been meek.

He thus abandons bar and new-found friends,
and barrels to the front to take the mic.
The herald looks bemused! His words will mend
her of her worries, banish fears alike.

He reads compassion in her eyes as she
bears witness to his truth then tells him, soft,
that further down he will more easeful be
than prisoned thus (again) in bardic loft.

No armour, lance, or steed of any kind;
true knightliness is just a state of mind.

– FR

Against a sparsely green, but mostly grey and brown background, a solitary mushroom lifts its smooth, brown dome of a cap (with a selection of white flesh and a hint of white gills around the fringe) on a slender, brown stalk, jutting at a proud angle from the ground.
A little paler, and this image from The Ultimate Mushroom Guide would truly resemble the top of Sir Nigel’s shiny dome. As it is, it’s a near-perfect match for his cricket kit bag, bulging with letters from the Queen from his time inside. Trust me: that wasn’t even the weirdest thing that happened that night.
Description in alt-text.

22 February 2022

#22 - Purple Jellydisc

 (Elizabeth McGeown)

Ascocoryne sarcoides

The film where Yul Brynner plays the King,
has at its start a woman and her son
who, moving to a strange place start to sing
about the power whistling gives to one.

When Jessie saw this film she'd found the key.
She'd whistle! Purse her lips together, blow
and make a noise so shrill that she'd be free
from all that made her scared. But lips said no.

No sound came out however hard she blew.
She reasoned that a mantra was as good.
A nonsense string of wordsand it was true!
It gave her strength when she began to brood.

She whispered these words when she felt at risk;
made braver by the 'purple jellydisc'.