Old Man's Beard


Granted Ski Patrol permission
Sammie says she wants to take a run
through Sniper, which means
through trees, deep snow,
and out of bounds, merging
with a trail back to groomed slopes.
She pulls up under a cluster
of fir trees rich with Old Man's Beard.
As she stretches to reach
hanging pale grayish-green lichens
growing like leafless tassels
anchored on bark, I reach
for the camera. Bad things happen
when you bring out the camera,
Sammie says, and the camera's
running when the snow boarder
comes from nowhere
interrupting our solitude
and is taken out by a broken limb.
I told you, Grandpa. Bad things happen.
"What'd I hit?"
This broken limb. Head and neck.
Declining assistance,
he says he's ok, but he's not too sure either.

Sammie hands me handfuls
of the treasured fungus
for my parka pocket,
Usnea, the scientist's name,
our story for starting fires
if we get stranded in woods
and we ski out of Sniper
having seen what it can do.

Back at camp, in the mothership,
Sammie puts catsup and mustard
in snow, while cooking
on the portable grill. The mothership
warm. When she comes in
she says, Grandpa, close your eyes.
When I've been cleared to look
she's placed a woven fungus bracelet
over my wrist, restoring me
to a more natural state of wonder.

Jim Bodeen
10 March 2017

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