The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Elizabeth Spires


calvatia gigantea



Gone for a year, you’re back.                                

There, in the backyard,

in a wide shade of the tree.

You remind me of a skull,

white, smooth and soft

as a newborn baby’s.




You grow larger, ever larger,

as if swollen in thought,

big as my head now

and growing bigger.




Today, a squirrel, kneeling,                 

takes delicate bites out of you.

Without a name or face,

you are very zen,

a stone statue gone soft in the head.




Like bolts of black cloth,

the nights unfurl themselves.

Leaves fall, spelling the inevitable. 

Soon, feathery moonlight will stroke

your skull with chill fingers.

Winter will stare you down.




You’re crusty and thick-skinned,

like a good loaf of bread.  Touching

you, my outstretched finger breaks

through to spoors of grey-green dust,

your thoughts aswirl at a future

that does not include you.    




Who can imagine snow, a chill

effacement?  Winter will come. 

One morning you will be gone,

a twinkling emptiness

I’ll notice as now I notice

all that I am not.




Next fall will you, or something

like you,  do what I cannot?

An absence, a presence,

will you come back?




ELIZABETH SPIRES is the author of six collections of poetry, including Now the Green Blade Rises, Worldling, and The Wave Maker.  She has also written six books for children, including The Mouse of Amherst and I Am Arachne. She lives in Baltimore and is a professor at Goucher College.



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