David Lewis Paget

(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Toadstool Man


He was known as the local Mycophagist
In the dales, the woods and the hills,
What happened was sad, for he wasn’t so bad
Just a tad underdone, Toby Gills,
They say that the cord was around his neck,
He was born with a carroty mop,
And a pale white head, he was almost dead
When the doctor had called out ‘Stop! ’

They cut the cord and they let him breathe,
The damage was already done,
The blood had been stopped to his carroty top
So they said that he’d always be dumb.
But he found a niche where the fungi creeps
And went out collecting the spore,
In a year or two he knew more than you
And the college Professor next door.

He studied his mushrooms with loving intent,
He knew about hen of the woods,
He knew about bracket and shaggy manes, magic
And paddy straw, they were the goods;
He fostered his lobster and hedgehog and oyster
And coral fungi and stinkhorns,
But didn’t discern between fly agarics
And toadstools that grew in the lawn.

He grew his spore in a deep, dark cellar
And sold to the folk who came by,
And never would judge between Widow Weller
And the ordinary witches of Rye,
He’d sell death caps, and pigskin puffballs
Not thinking to question them why,
Or who would be eating his laughing Jim’s
And whether they knew they would die.

The air was thick and the air was damp
And he fell in the dark one day,
Scattering toadstools into the air
And their spores had floated away,
He breathed the spores right into his lungs
For he hadn’t been wearing a mask,
But sucked them in right over his tongue
And they came to his lungs, at last.

I happened to see him out in the street
He was finding it hard to breathe,
He could only take a couple of steps
Then sit on the kerb, to heave,
I tried to help but he waved me away
And his eyes were yellow and cruel,
Then I saw what he’d thrown up on the kerb
Some yellow and red toadstools.

The man was a walking toadstool spore
They were popping up out of his hair,
Pushing their way though his carroty top
In a bid to get to the air,
And his skin was blotched like a puffball, he
Looked up at me, and he cried,
As a giant toadstool grew from his throat
And he lay on his side, and died.

Submitted: Saturday, December 07, 2013
Edited: Saturday, December 07, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

7 December 2013

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