Mushroom Picker

Mushrooms grow well in chicken manure,
but there’s a rumour the farm is experimenting
with faeces from the local zoo.

We traipse into the shed: a corrugated half-cylinder.
I wrangle a ladder that’s taller than me,
stuff blue punnets onto a metal tray.

Armed with my curved blade, I ascend.
White froth swells imperceptibly into umbrellas.
For £2.12 an hour, I sever stalk after stalk.

Some mushrooms are beaded with mysterious red.
Some punctured membranes gush rancid fluids.
The mites get everywhere.

We dunk our knives in chemicals (hello
dermatitis), then decamp to the staff room
and turn tea-splashed pages. Smoke coils and weaves.

One day, the maintenance guy is horribly maimed
as he cleans a machine that crushes things. Another day
we shuffle outside, avert our eyes from the eclipse.



Lucy Dixcart is a Kent-based writer. Her poems have been published widely and her debut pamphlet, Faint, is due to be published by Wild Pressed Books in November 2020.