(KENNETT SQUARE, PA, “Mushroom Capital of the World”)
After rain, we’ve seen vultures
on the topmost branch of a tulip poplar,
their capes lifted, feathers fanned and tilted
like blinds, gathering heat. Even then
their yellow eyes turn down.
Tonight their heads are bowed, black
capes collapsed against their backs.
They form a circle and huddle in.
From the road, we watch them dip their beaks
in benediction while others circle---
feet tucked, wings rigid and crimped,
silent as clouds, their shadows swinging
over furrows where breaths quicken.
Is it holy? the drinking of blood
and the body’s juices, the scraping
of skull, shoulders, hips, and ribs?
Like midwives they usher the newly-dead
into viscera—stripping the hair, skin
and fur, picking the bones free. Down
the road, in a thousand darkened barns,
a fungus erupts,
stem-ends blooming into domed
bone-colored caps, death cups
sprung from the remains.