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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Master

A Moral Tale
I went to North Pond's conifer groves,
Where sacred Hemlocks cling to rock.
Over the years the needles have fallen,
And built up a century thick old growth stock.

Beneath the jeweled green crests
Of the hemlocks that rose up so high
Grew fruits of a mycelium below them
Two blooms of the most pale white.

As I neared to make closer inspection
A hue in the forest rose up high
A flock of jays swarmed my direction
As I looked down at the pale fungi.

I remembered a story of some pilgrims
Walking in Europe long without food.
They came to a grove without acorns,
Above the snow some mushrooms had showed.


They inquire who owns this Wood,
And ask their Sire, Are these mushrooms Good?

"Who is the master of this Forest?
Perhaps he knows if we can eat these?
We're starving, surely he won't ignore us!
If we don't find him, do you think we should flee?" 


A solitary man of noble Age
Is a Holy man, on a Pilgrimage.

An old Priest stood amongst them
Of the twenty he usually spoke least
But on this occasion his voice was held steady
His cold reason cast a spell on the trees . . .

"God is our Master, He looks after his own,
He leads us to pastures, and to mushrooms He's sown.
Our captain of this wood is All Knowing,
Praise Him!, Let us shout it out loud!
He gives food to all things that are growing.
Even these fungi have a season to be proud!

"We've shown him our Faith, He won't starve us like Wraiths,
The Grace of God is fair.
He’ll not plan for our deaths, or play games with our breaths.
His Wrath is not displayed here!"


A country Cook with an unfed Clan
Without his book, without his Pan

The crows and the jays were calling,
They sang a language the pilgrims couldn't make out.
"For an old forest this is a noisy one,
With so many cawing blackbirds about."

"This is Caesar's Amanita", spoke the cook,
"It's most nutritious and tasty, just look!
"It's the same variety as we find in old Italy!
I'll show you a picture from my book!"

"I've eaten funghi my whole life,
Wild ones, and ones grown by my wife,
I've gathered with care here - this is fabulous fare here!
You'll want your share too when we're done!"


A youthful Prodigy speaks Aloud
Against the Cook, Against the Crowd

"Let's not!" said the lad, "I once heard from my Dad,
What grows alone must live in peace.
Whether one or two, or a meal for a few,
These loners are not meant for a feast!

"The fungus tend the roots of the oak
That provide a season of benefit for all.
Leave alone the one that mends them,
And enjoy nutrition from the acorns that fall.

"The truffles that swell just after a storm,
Have a powerful allure for pigs.
They loot and dig for oak acorns,
And root puffballs with their snouts as they dig.

"The fungi below are the creators,
Of the dozen or so fruiting caps.
In an area as large an an acre,
They're poisonous, I assure you of that!"


The Leader rejoins, 'Tis his Job
To listen to All, not conjoin to a Mob

Said the leader to the youth, "You're a well spoken one,
It would be uncouth to listen to thee!
If we all act as one, we'll not be undone,
Let's face facts as a committee, and agree."


A Lonely Soul of increasing Age
With an empty Bowl, sans Meat or Sage

An old hermit sat hunched, amongst the small clan.
For him it was an effort to stand.
So hungry was he, that he fell to his knees,
And prayed, "God please save our wretched band!"

"I'm just a poor hermit, so I won't give a sermon,
Nor do I know this mushroom . . .
But over the years I've become aware of my fears,
And so have become acquainted with some.
With respects to our leader, this Amanita's not Caesar's,
It's too pale and white to be one."


Once More the Leader Chairs
Seeking the Median, In order to be Fair

"Let's ask the good Doctor," said the Leader as Proctor,
"He is learned in all things that nourish,
If we don't eat at all, we will starve and then fall,
But if we all eat all at once, we might perish."


An Educated man of Medicine speaks,
But knows not Enough, of Things that we Eat

The Doctor spoke sadly, "These are matters I know badly
Not subjects I know well by rote.
As a Man of Science, I'm not prone to defiance,
Unless I've read it, I'm reluctant to quote.

"Let's not be sods, let's limit these odds
So our misery won't morph into Fate.
I advise caution, let's limit our portions!
It'd be best if some of us wait."


A student Alchemist of French extract
Relates Poison to Color, whether Fiction or Fact

The Scholar spoke up, "I would like to take sup
This decision is fateful for all . . .
Whatever's decided, and howsoever we tried it,
We never gave up on God's call.

"I study mythology, but alas not mycol-ogy,
. . . in the cloisters of distant Paris,
Though it is high form, it remains a far-cry from,
. . . the mastery of plant bot-any.
The physics of hues, might give us some clues
Like a bump on the head in phil-ology!

"Salamanders and snakes, or roots like mandrake
Are emblazoned with yellow and red.
What's poison to a man, is painted like a fan,
Eating bright, can end you up dead.

'But when shrouded in white, how close to a bite,
Must I be to know what poison's inside?
The complexity of life, is more tinted by strife,
Than the hues that are pasted broadside."


A Man of the Hour harnesses Water and Stones
Whether grinding Flour, or grinding up Bones

Said the Miller to the group, "I've used these in soup!
By my life you have nothing to fear.
The ones down home, have nearly the same comb!
As the ones we swill into our beer.

"This mushroom is white, it's pure delight!
It's the color of my best pounded flour!
I say eat our fill, like the wheat ground from my mill,
Bright as sun at the noonday hour."

"Night comes on soon, perhaps this mushroom
Will glow like the flesh of the dead.
If it reeks of a corpse, then I think not to absorb,
The flesh of this unknown bread.

"But if it glints by the moon, in the belly of a spoon
Hints we have nothing to dread or to fear.
Like a yeast bowl that's rising, though not least surprising,
'Tis a sign that we'll be well-fed this New Year!"


A faithful Dame, a Faithful Wife
To a Burgher of Fame, in a Prior Life

The good Wife spoke next, with a voice so perplexed,
"I'm so weak that I hardly can see!
For two weeks we've been cursed, the damnable worst,
That's plagued every last pilgrim like me.

"I'm faint from terrible hunger,
       I don't know if I'm tired or cold.
I know we can't live on much longer, 
       It's time that one of us got bold.
"I'm not afraid of dying, 
        I'm not even afraid of Death.
Yet it would defeat me to die not trying, 
Even if eating took my very last breath."

A Soldat returned from the Saracen Wars
Gives council to spurn, the growth on Forest Floors

Midst their league reposed a Norman soldier
Returned from the First Crusade
He'd walked through lands that were colder
Than the ones faced by the pilgrims that day.

He'd spent a good part of his life fighting
With his truncheon, his bow, and blade.
Through cunning he rose to be knighted
Touched by Godfrey, the Duke of Lorraine.

"It's the dark time of year it is true, I'm sorry I've not found us some food,
If I were home, I'd go where the deer roam, but alas I know nothing of this wood.

"In my march to Land of Jesus, we avoided the route by sea,
We left that to the Count of Toulouse, and went by way of old Hungary.

"I know God watches over our tour.
I knew my Lord lead me then,
I've faced Death at every turn,
Since Godfrey took Jerusalem.

"The true knight is one who is fearless,
Secured by God's love on every side,
His soul is protected by the armor of faith,
Stronger than the armor of steel outside.

"We encountered many legumes and colors,
Here and there I learned them by name.
But each had a different tongue from the other,
So the task was an impossible game.

"There's a red Amanita, a toadstool, spotted all over with white
One eve before bed in Edessa, I allowed myself a small bite.
Some soldiers I knew had advised it . . . they said it gave strength for the fight, 

Now I hear the advice of my Alchemist Brother
Since it played havoc with my mind and my sight!
Henceforth I avoid bright colors,
But I know nothing of this pale white Knight.

"Our chandler gave us a piece of advice,
We lived by it night and day.
We ate only local produce
That the resident folk said was okay. 

"I see no locals 'round here . . 
In this most depopulated Wood.
I'm not sure we should partake here
Of mushrooms that rear a white Hood."


The Decision is Made
Some of them Eat, and some of them Wait

The Leader summarized, the opinions they devised
This is the last advice that he ever gave  . . .
"Eat if you are sure, and let all doubters abjure!
If you stay well, then the rest need not wait."

Aware as they were of the dangers,
They split into two groups of ten.
One group foraged on the toadstools
While the others sat down to watch them.

The voice of warning was ignored,
After six hours all ten pilgrims felt fine.
The youth that cried wolf then felt hungry,
So he sat down and decided to dine.

The night that passed went quickly,
The ones who ate slept best.
Those who didn't eat felt sickly
The ten pilgrims who had decided to fast.


The Breakfast, Giving thanks to God
Avoiding his Wrath, with a vision that's Flawed

The breakfast that morn was joyous.
All twenty foraged wide and abroad.
Gathering the fruited loners, 
That sprung singly from small lumps of sod.

The health of all turned much better, 
Their voices became happy and strong
They broke into peals of laughter,
The Priest led them all in a Song.

They no longer felt the curse of all Sinners,
Their Hell turned back towards Heav'en.
The Soldier shot a deer for their dinners,
And thus avoided their Armageddon.

Soon all were thankfully praying, 
Provisioned by this beautiful bread,
But after three days all twenty lay dying
Another day and all twenty lay dead.

Copyright 2010, Mark W. Potter, Jr., Florian Reissinger

An Epilogue to this piece, "The Princess"

A Germenglish version of this poem.

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