Mushrooms

They took us down to Creekside on a field trip.
Twenty-eight bored sixth graders in hard hats,
a cautionary tale at best. The farmers
sent us home with small wooden crates
filled with mushrooms, 100% certified
Pennsylvania organic, their faces dirty,
seamed, expectant, gentle.

I brought the mushrooms to you
and we spent an afternoon cleaning,
chopping, each slice precise, uniform.
We sautéed them with dill in cream
and coconut oil and ate them over latkes.

You asked me what I learned, going
down the Creekside mine. I mumbled,
I dunno. You told me I should have learned
about humility, about the simple pleasures
of cultivation, the alchemy of making
wonderful things grow from rot.

Your own seamed face was gentle,
hopeful. I shouldn’t have mentioned
peasant ancestors, tilling shtetl soil
while German tanks rolled in. How
the prisoners rotted in the Janowska barracks,
nothing beautiful, redemptive. You told me
these were not things I should know,
so soon, so young. You took our plates
and, turning your silent, deafening back,
scraped them in the sink.

Karla Keffer is a Ph.D. student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Smartish Pace and Moon City Review. She is the creator and publisher of the personal zine The Real Ramona. She lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.