The Mushroom King

Stephen Lightbown


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The wait is hard when you count time in memories. 
But linger long enough, and the Mushroom King 
will emerge. Ears in the branches, hands made of 
moss and tree bark. His Sunday slacks woven 
from wild garlic and elderflowers. 
He took me to many fields. We’d travel 
through tunnels under roads. I’d feel mud 
on my bony knees. Once there, I’d see only green. 
He would appear, move a single 
blade of grass like a door of promise. 
And it would be there. 
Flat head, soft to touch, brown underbelly like 
wet cardboard. Once I knew how to look, 
I would fill rucksacks, small lunchboxes, 
hearts and fearless tummies. 

Come back, Mushroom King 
Come back, unclip the seatbelt that binds me
Come back, help me see the ground 
Come back, show me the dirt 
Come back, Mushroom King 

Over time I forgot where and how to look. 
I stopped going to fields, the faint scent 
of wild garlic became distant on the wind 
until there was just a breathless breeze. 

I’ve sat by his tree for fourteen years. 
A thousand leaves call as one waving hand.
Fear creeps into spaces that were once 
filled with mushrooms. 

I run my fingers through the parched earth. 
To touch, is like bristles on his chin. 
Is he here? 

Stephen Lightbown

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Former Contributor for Panorama.