Carne de Los Muertos
In the late 18th century, new Christian churches needed relics in order to be consecrated, and so the business of translatio began.
Some remnants should never consecrate
another’s ground, another’s tongue,
not even through the scansion of holy processionals.
Among the untranslatable: mushrooms
whose filaments hem centennial oaks.
Industrious concubines, my father called them
those autumn dawns Mother coaxed us out of bed
so we’d reach the mountains while dew
teased out the fungal sweat.
When nearing the clumps, she’d lift her arm
to hush us, as if lack of solemnity
could sweep them under stumps.
Also untranslatable: the fidelity I once cultivated
in fern light. What felt natural then
has lapsed into fetish: the taste of doliu under nails,
snowdrop roots pressed against nostrils to take spring’s pulse.
If I lean close to the gallows trellised with mushrooms,
I too will turn into their bioluscent bride.
Yes, love, it’s true that putrid leaves shift
erotically under my feet. In certain forests.
Most species protect the hosts, but not the one
I chase tonight: the immodest honey mushroom
who invades the host’s body and lights it
from within. Its sweet pathogen
will render bones needless, the sickened flesh edible.
My mother pushes the mushrooms around her plate.
They churn up the dead to feed the living.
They say cemeteries are ideal hunting grounds,
but not in my experience. Even our sludge
is too polluted. All I find are strays
that dissolve into black ink. I do not tell her
about the ghostly missives, what they demand.
Too many, she says, raking some to the rim,
and I laugh. Too many?
You used to eat cauldrons of them, Mom,
September to summertime.
But I never liked them.
You never liked them? Liar.
Never ever liked them. I loved picking and that’s what I tasted –
belly warm when I scooped those bouquets intact.
What else didn’t you like?
She lifts the fork as in a toast, caps stacked.
I liked it all. So easy to sun-dry and powder
the poisonous ones, spread under the pillow, serve.
Mihaela Moscaliuc is the author of Father Dirt (Alice James Books, 2010) and Immigrant Model (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), the translator of Carmelia Leonte’s The Hiss of the Viper (Carnegie Mellon UP, 2014), and editor of a forthcoming collection of essays on poet Gerald Stern. She teaches at Monmouth University (NJ) and in the M.F.A. Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation at Drew University (NJ).