Tim Duffy is a poet, scholar, and teacher working in Connecticut (USA).
He has poems in or forthcoming in Pleiades, The Hawai'i Review,
Longleaf Review, Anti-Heroic Chic and elsewhere. He is the founder
and editor of 8 Poems Journal.

The Mushroom

At night she leaves a candle burning to Saint Anne,
patron saint of miners, horseback riders, grandmother
of Christ, mother of Mary, patient in her role,
Saint Joachim loafing about in the house while the angels
make trouble by the coffee cups.

The next day she walks with her father, street by street
after work. Babysitting coins, fees for the mending too,
rattle in her pocket, warm in the still-hot air.
Then: a lesson. The swollen mushroom
below the leaves at the base of an oak.

Large, but inadequate, her father waves his hands,
Aspetta. September has days enough to swell mushrooms
and leave the work to shadow. They step away.
All night she dreams of the mushroom kingdom.
The small door that leads to the banquet hall's dome.

Some nights she cries from the beauty. The candle flickers
shadows on her thin blanket, the sweat of closed windows.
She opens them wide, even in the reach of intruders, to picture
the mushroom drinking the warm tea of the morning. Her father rouses
to the tap, a flurry of shaving cream lather, Sambuca and coffee,

a quick song before the promise. This afternoon!
Aspetta. Another day to wait.
It is not ready, but if ripped too early it will never grow right:
scarred, tough, and short like her father.
He sings to wait. A mandolin.

The end is obvious: the mushroom is gone
the next day. The leaves to hide it stay behind
like drunk watchmen. She wants to cry. He stops her.
No tears over things to which we have no right,
no matter how delicious.

Though she can tell,
a part of him has sunk deep into the ground,
unable to hide, or flee,
or give in or grow
all over again.

Canzone to Labor in a Heatwave

I know it is wrong to aestheticize the labor of another,
Even if Diego Rivera painted workers in dignified beauty.
When I was such a laborer, no one painted me
For inspiration, I was no such talent
So now I memorialize it myself in hasty poems, and the work of others.

When they had already cut the bulk of the branches from the tree
The most slender in the crew climbed between the wishbone top
Of the ancient maple. Only two branches remained
And he stood between them with only a rope and a saw.
He paused and looked out at the horizon, as if to say

"You will never see exactly this" to the small jets that flew overhead
And to us on the ground or in houses gawking through windows.
The only way down was to saw all that was above him, until
Only the ground remained. Then, by the crew's water tank
He could sip for a moment, dream of the cash in hand at end of the day
And the stillness that occurs between the bells of washed dinner plates
and the alarm clock.

Song, this sight has made your creator
Stare uneasily at the screens of his trade, knowing
If he finds his way up, he'll never come down again.

Ars Poetica

And in the last moment, the tucked away version
of the poet is not the monkey
screaming at the zoo, nor the quiet bird
memorizing mimics. It's the pipes
in the wall, quiet until the failure
that weeps the house down.

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