Yellow and ripe, red and seductive,
the mushrooms blossoming all over my garden
tempt me. I don’t trust the round colors
of their secrets, the absurdity of their Russian roulette,
their gilds and parasol, their intense wink,
the delight of something sprouting by itself,
giving itself. I wouldn’t eat mushrooms
even in my mountains, knowing that my mother
almost died of them when she was twenty.
Although the whole family ate from them,
only she was ill. A neighbor started collecting
bottles of milk for her to drink. It was coming up
all green. Lying in bed, my mother was spinning
in concentric circles of poison, serene.
A friend gave me a red umbrella with drawings
of a compass. At twenty two, I worked two
jobs to pay for my flight to America, and walking
to my night shift, I held the umbrella’s
sturdy handle to protect myself from stray dogs
that howled across a construction site. It never
rained that summer. I kept that umbrella
for twenty years, and when it broke I found a garret
where so many mismatched ailing gadgets fit.
The old man fixed watches, coffee grinders, glasses frames—
a God of broken things—turned and inspected them,
and his hands knew before he did. How he survived
on the coins he charged was not clear—how many
of us cared to repair that umbrella, prayed for rain.
He collected old parts of TVs that ended up all over
the house, old tubes and lamps that caught dust.
Even in the mountains people were learning
that you don’t repair TVs anymore, nothing
to be done with the new models. Parts sat on desks,
covered the floors of his mother’s house and the spare
beds. She was afraid to go to the gate
when people from three villages around stopped by
to inquire about their TVs. She knew too well
how he sometimes took parts from an old one
to repair another one, in a domino that could often
include one of her neighbors. One set brought together
a network of stories and quarrels, a sign
of old times, when we still believed in repairs.
Lucia Cherciu is a Professor of English at SUNY / Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY, and she writes both in English and in Romanian. Her newest book of poetry, Edible Flowers, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. Her other books of poetry are Lepădarea de Limbă (The Abandonment of Language), Editura Vinea 2009, and Altoiul Râsului (Grafted Laughter), Editura Brumar 2010. Her poetry appeared in Connecticut Review, Connotation Press, Cortland Review, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Memoir, Off the Coast, Paterson Literary Review, The Prose-Poem Project, Spillway, Oglinda Literară, Pro Saeculum, Salonul Literar, Timpul, Hyperion, Contrapunct, Astra, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net.