Let’s Be Mushrooms + Night Blooming Cereus

Tom Paine

Let’s Be Mushrooms

Let’s be mushrooms, you and I, when we die—
we are not egotist trees, pith and heartwood,
raging, cursing with raw bark and wild sap,
shaking influencer fists at the bemused sky.
We will do the work in the eternal crematory, 
roasting coffee and crimes; senators and saints.
Little will be known of our gracious generation.
What they will proclaim as us—our fish-bellied, 
gilled-umbrella eyes, peeking like whack-a-mole
from the forest floor, belies the supreme scale 
of our secret selves below their hustling feet, 
where we will live as one, unseen and unafraid, 
in our conspiracy of rebirth, a subterranean veil 
of life-giving lace–(neither of us ever needed 
earth to spin to know sun is not the only star).

Night Blooming Cereus

There is a light, a light like angels rising from the grave, 
sneaking in, blinded with love. Angelic light is bright 
on you as you sleep on this morning. Sometimes I feel 
a night blooming cereus has stalked our bed into clouds. 
Unbidden, insane sensibility; a strange displacement, 
but extra-real, there is emptiness except our bedroom.
This disassociated floating arises like this: a lone scarf 
of swirling silken chalk slowly pinwheels, permeates. 
Love: it is happening again, I whisper, everyone is crazy!
Let those awake to death-making go drive and work. 
I bless your moist, flickering eyelids. Everything else, 
everything outside this box of love, their time, is a lie. 

Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in The Nation, The Moth (Ireland), The Rialto (UK), New Contrast (South Africa), Volt, Vallum (Canada), Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), and elsewhere. Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, The O. Henry Awards, and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection Scar Vegas(Harcourt) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway finalist. He is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.

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