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A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford/ Derek Mahon

This poem by Mahon is a miracle. A shed in Ireland, abandoned during the Civil War in the 1920s, has been home for fifty years to a colony of mushrooms, growing in the dark, moving towards the little chink of light coming in from the keyhole. It's a poem about things. And their presence despite the lack of our presence. "A half century without visitors in the dark". It's unsettling and also very alive-making. The original is six-stanzas but I've excerpted just two...

Deep in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel, Among the bathtubs and the washbasins A thousand mushrooms crowd to a keyhole. This is the one star in their firmament Or frames a star within a star. What should they do there but desire? So many days beyond the rhododendrons With the world waltzing in its bowl of cloud,

They have learnt patience and silence Listening to the rooks querulous in the high wood. They have been waiting for us in a foetor Of vegetable sweat since civil war days, Since the gravel-crunching, interminable departure Of the expropriated mycologist. He never came back, and light since then

Is a keyhole rusting gently after rain. Spiders have spun, flies dusted to mildew And once a day, perhaps, they have heard something - A trickle of masonry, a shout from the blue

Or a lorry changing gear at the end of the lane.

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'They have learnt patience and silence ' ... love that

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Harrie
Harrie
Nov 03, 2022

Aaah, wonderful. I've been encountering lots of autumn mushrooms in the Forest recently, and this poem captures something of the soul feeling I get when I stop to be with them a moment - something about their stillness and 'thereness', and, yes, patience. Mushrooms always seem intensely present somehow. I love the lines about how they occasionally hear something - they are open to the world around them, and just carry on being there, being totally themselves ....

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Thanks Alistair, wonderful reminder that things in nature continue on if we don't disturb them.

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