Pulling my first from its place in the forest floor
felt like slipping a key from its partnered, well-oiled lock.
Broken so cleanly at the stem it appeared scalpel-sliced.

You assured me this was a good find, a Boletus from its reddened bruise
and lack of gills. But chanterelles proved easiest to forage;
their penny-bright caps glinted between dead leaves, ripe for the taking.

Spiders were the largest animals we saw that day: orb weavers
bigger than a man’s fist, sharp-legged seamstresses whose webs
like neural networks transgressed each clearing. Without hair

they weren’t so frightening, as if each spider had disrobed herself
to display a less menacing skeleton. Still, we kept our distance.
And suddenly what I had never paid attention to was flourishing:

oysters in bursts around a rotting stump, Amanitas with their white
burial shroud, indigo milk caps as fluted and blue as
a ballerina’s tulle skirt. You told me the wildness

might not be as feral as we think. That the fungi’s filaments
weave a pattern, a conscious fabric, engaging the nearest tree with
its opposite furthest tree to say entwine your roots with my mycelia

and I will tell you my secrets. We followed their invisible cartography
by whatever heads peered up from autumn’s detritus.
And though we were strangers there, unmooring

each mushroom that seemed least dangerous, we could feel
the vast organism underfoot. Silent but for the sounds
of insects, unwitting and soon to be caught.

Paige Quiñones is the author of The Best Prey, which received the 2020 Pleiades Press Lena Miles-Wever Todd Prize for Poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the Center for Mexican-American Studies, the Academy of American Poets, and Inprint Houston. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, Juked, Lambda Literary, Orion Magazine, Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from the Ohio State University and is currently a PhD student in poetry at the University of Houston, where she teaches community workshops and is a writer at Writers in the Schools.