13 Oct 2023

The Mushroom’s Fourth Side

An Original Poem for the MAPS Bulletin

By Sophie Strand

MAPS Bulletin: Volume XXXIII Number 2 • 2023


Sporocarps in rings or arcs are the shape

of a decaying mother deer, severed hand,

or marshland that has dried into layered grass. 

Easy to sit down or stray into these necrotic zones. 

The child recognizes a half circle, luminescent freckle of earth,

as the reflection of the expression of moon.

For a minute, tiny feet bubbled upwards. Elf ring,

sprite circle; or perhaps this is the sputum of underworld.

Here, only four years ago, a tomcat was buried in a paper bag.

He was tawny and sleek. The mushrooms, too, blink

into color like the underside of a flame.


Flat-headed fungi seat the small beings. Toadstool

blushes blanches according to rhythm of nutrients

unseen. Puffball sighs and bloats. On a long walk

through the bluffs, I spotted tiny, changeable faces

connected to bodies below the dirt. How remarkable.

How strange. Perhaps a death below?

Examining the uprooted corpse, see the stem

is a simplified neck. This time, no need of spine.

The cap protects fleshly forehead. Gills to suck up

morning dew, punctuating the structure with lamella lace.

In southeast Sweden, a soil analysis of wood blewit

under a Norway spruce and Scots Pine yielded

fourteen halogenated low molecular weight

organic compounds indicating terrestrial fungi.

But for me, these are pink bones bunched up

out of the ground.


There are two similarities.

Amanita phalloides imitating Amanita caesarea.

Sometimes, said someone once, we dine

next to gods of death. Death cap’s damp non-color

is the shade of Siddhartha on his deathbed.

Sébastien Vaillant noted in 1727 the strange fact

that a fool’s mushroom occasionally destroys angels.

I remember this was no longer remarkable

after the seventh poisoned day. Dehydrated, I

yellowed against bed sheets. Yet how delicious they were,

as if I was eating the ear lobe of an outer planet.

Young death cap emerges from its universal veil.

Then a small population of notable healers, politicians, courtesans

take a breath, share wine, start the meal.


Tomorrow we will all take mushrooms at the same time.

Everything is planned. Everything is in order.

Somebody has found a field for us, a springtime.

The color of the sky reversed. The whole canoe trip

backwards. A country including Inocybe, Mycena,

Copelandia, Galerina. All of these names suggested

by the mummified skins of living things ingested

in order to understand my mother. The reason the clock

reminded me of black wind through conifers. No relation

but I had to know. Retching for hours. Hands out over

the offal pit. My arms doubled, tripled until I could hold

the whole thing. It’s all initiation. The entire forest is edible.

So is the hillside. Everything in its proper place makes a mythology,

makes a food, makes the insides of a mind visible

in the soft shell of an upside-down mushroom.

Sophie Strand

Sophie Strand is a writer based in the Hudson Valley who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and ecology. Her first book of essays The Flowering Wand: Rewilding the Sacred Masculine was published in 2022. Her eco-feminist fictional reimagining of the gospels The Madonna Secret will also be published by Inner Traditions in August and is available for pre-order. Subscribe for her newsletter at sophiestrand.substack.com. Follow her work on Instagram: @cosmogyny and at www.sophiestrand.com.