Mushroom botany … for the sake of beauty

This poem was composed after a concise explanation of mushroom taxonomy focused on the specimen, the species, the genus and the family, was set out in conversation in the evening after a mushroom foray, at Longueville House, Mallow, County Cork. I dedicate this poem to Jim Fraser. Another title that works for this piece is – Mushroom Taxonomy. .

I.
The carpophore is true.
This stalked fruit body is true.
A specimen is real to me,
And, is real to you.
A stem, with cap, and gills,
you have…
A specimen is one true,
one true, taken from nature,
one true, made from this.

Fruit bodies of one species…
ought to have properties in common.
Features of cap,
features of stem,
and features of gills,
all that are true,
by God, by colour, by form,
by growth, by life, by all.

Congruence in morph,
equal in tone,
over the cap,
equal in zones,
neat radial gills,
attached equal in some way,
with stem surface parts …
equally rolled,
over the round.

Species is the ultimate unit
science creates to cope with this –
variation on the round, of
features of cap, gill and stem.
A name to go with it…
The species epithet…
we have to use it, now and then,
when we, who know and see it,
when we, see it again,
the name of the species …
is the epithet, we know it by.
And this will be the name we call it,
when nothing has escaped our eye.

A genus is a way of grouping,
A way of grouping species …
By pairs of species that share some features,
Whether we have the words or not
Things that are made of the same sort,
Things that are made of the same kind,
Things that form in the same kind of way,
Congeners share …
Congeners are our decision
on the closely knitted group.

Families, then, are more abstract, with a few, or more, principles in common …
Spore print colour …
White, cream, pink, cinnamon or dark purplish black …
Stem cap and gills for an agaric,
Stem cap and pores for a bolete,
Stem cap and folds for a girolle,
Gills break easy or milk when reflexed in Russulaceae
Families, then, are more abstract, with a few, or more, principles in common …

II.
The name we use botanically is a binomial of genus and species –
The genus: a predictor of form,
and the species: the one of that kind.
The family placement: an overview that we summarize.

Bizarre that taxonomy is so predictable,
the same result each time.
Constructed on logical argument,
and close observation of …
mycological colour, morphology and anatomy, studied optically.
Taxonomy is the consensus about the same kind.

Imagine the groups,
imagine genera,
something that comes with experience,
comes with a synopsis of one’s specimen examinations…
Drawing together forms in common,
that look the same,
that dissect the same,
that live in the same worlds …
of lacustrine moss …
but have different words – Massalongia carnosa fertile, foliose, Polychidium muscicola fertile, fruticose,
Imagine creating a family: Massalongiaceae
Logically needed for this congruence…

Put together a taxonomic system,
the goal of systematic botany,
A system to cope with all species,
is a sort of a yoke …
A yoke that makes sense of
All what we have seen …
living and growing in nature,
with logical keys to separate out
this from that,
that we can cope with,
a yoke to make nature comprehensible,
to those folk
with the insatiable curiosity
to look, and provoke.

Collect, observe, magnify,
draw, colour and illustrate.
Name and label the parts,
and distill into science,
a taxonomic method,
for enlightenment …

Writing up species for human utility is no way…
Use taxonomic honesty, systematic creativity, and floristic reality …
to describe our lands’ vegetation geography, for conservation, in a prescribed legal way,
to make destruction of each life, a species taboo, with which we inhibit
the banker’s and their chainsaw’s …
greed
in a society that destroys beauty.

Howard FOX

A bark at bedtime

He lies on the floor,
feet to the door,
back to the press,
with kibble bowl ahead,
empty for now.

Getting things ready for him,
water and food for the night,
he sits up in reaction,
then lies back and stretches,
resuming his snooze.

Untying my laces,
shedding my shoes,
I pad about
to click on the kettle
for tea, for me.

He drinks some water,
whips his ears in a shake,
couch scratches a bit,
that unsettled bed,
waiting his time.

He inspects my toes with his nose,
in passing to the door.
Noise brings him to bark,
asking me if I am ready to rest?

So to finish this ode,
and make the last line,
before we head for the hills,
he barks … a few times.

© Howard Fox, 2017

Beaufort five and falling

Flapping in the wind,

For quarter of a hour between 8 and 9,

Clouds flow east across the evening sun.

Hammock silk tugs and stretches,

As tree mallow flower spikes sway,

Awaiting her return.

 

Noodle nests boiled for supper

Seasoned by butter and goats cheese

With Miso, provided for what I need.

Low clouds zip east.

Eyelids closed for an inner volcanic rouge

From solar bound shut eye.

 

Wind hammock billows

cooling shivers motive to go in.

Bluer above, catching the evening air

Heading out to the Irish Sea.

Cooler chilled back and coughs,

signal a last swing,

Before I unfurl my hammock,

And let my day out end.

 

Rewarmed in still air inside,

Hisses the drafts of unsteady wind,

Beaufort five and falling,

As mallow lilac flowers wobble,

In the last of the day’s sun.

Sycamore black silhouette …

Sycamore black silhouette, on a Loughshinny sky-line.
After an evening’s sundown, pale sky reactions,
like pottery glaze, fixed, in no breeze.

Sycamore black silhouette, on a Loughshinny sky-line.
Street lamp rose-pink in front, clouds ripple into stripes,
cream coloured, grey courses.

The lamp is stronger now,
a sodium yellow orange glow in front of the
Sycamore black silhouette, on a Loughshinny sky-line.

Sharing a meal from one’s own world

Distilling the vocabulary of genera,
detailing their morphological senses,
applying nuances to an under-explored forest.

A creative pamphlet for Honduras,
hurriedly assembled to guide, from afar,
Irish people walking by trees.

Knowledge for communication and
an incentive to tarry, turn and see
botanical detail, that bypasses me.

My table shared, in a request for family seating for a meal,
withdrawn in a botany manuscript, booklet editing,
overheard conversation, cues for discourse,
as I emerge, courteously, from my own world.

Accented English hints at exotic linguistic prowess,
Language, French, German, no, Lithuanian, Russian, yes, Irish, cupla focal.
explaining with my best roundaboutly told story of how to practice Irish,
of caint ar an madra ag rith go tapaidh, tar eis an anibhdhe ag rith go tapaidh freisin …

Howard Fox,
21 March 2016

Gazing across tree tops

Cloud mist in wafts rising across
tree tops, sentinels under a grey sky
late morning and still.
Forest walkers below,
hushed by branches of needles,
unaware of the watcher above,
track-bound, receding now,
around to the next stream bridge.

Blue sky opens a small window to the North,
otherwise grey. Pottering away,
listing species from a chalk lined plot,
pencil busy on notebook, clinometer out,
bark slope taken, camera shot.
Leader bark with a few needles attached,
stem spines prickle the skin
below my hand holding fist.

The tree flexes as one moves,
a step up to a new branch,
swing around to the other side,
to do the North plot next.
A new vista across the hills
with hedge-rowed fields for miles away.
The day is improving and
the cloud base is rising,
bluer now, greener too,
air washed by rain saturates colours.
My eye rests on a white-washed farm yard,
with red-roofed sheds, among winter brown hedges,
and wet grass fields.

Another push and the list is complete,
notebook packed away, with some time to one-self.
Unfurl a teabag string, douse in the flask,
the hot liquid greens, ready for reverie,
tree top tea, with a stray spruce needle
floater, for the lips to avoid.
A grey tractor moves in the farm yard,
damp soft sounds in a lower landscape,
from the hill forest,
gazing across tree tops.

Howard Fox (C) 2015

What

Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.
Time is a healer, on your day off.
Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.
Talk in friendliness about anything,
compose something, talk it out loud,
for your sanity demands it,
connect with other souls, talk about modernity.
Listless in the heat, brain fry complete
deep breath, take it easy,
calm down, not so fast.

Take a walk to a tree,
use your eyes for an exercise
to see what is a twig,
develop the vocabulary to communicate
about an entity external to me,
keep going, screening with your eyes
until you have seen something you did
not know exists, now
take your time, really take it easy,
look at nature, calm, with your mind.

Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,
what is it like ?
Use your mind to describe this entity,
maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,
or a photo, if you are impatient.
Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future
so that we can speak of the same entity,
in the same language, in the same words,
to some other soul, for we are all kindred.

Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring
this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties
of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.
All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,
short-sighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,
for to see what is this entity, before me.

I am not the first to need something external,
to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps
with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do
mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,
that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.

Calm the mind from its anxieties
is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps
if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
the scales on the eyes of your perception,
will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,
with intolerable situations, take a deep breath
and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and
release yourself from the tyrrany of why.
Why, for you have now delved
into the torture of what !

(c) Howard Fox, June 2013