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Christopher and Helen, our new expatriate friends,

meet us at their favorite winery

where they fill their plastic jerry cans from hoses

exactly like the ones at gas stations,

as though they’re planning to go back home to Aix

and treat their lawnmower to a nice red.

Instead, they take us in their forest green Peugeot

to the home of their old friend Brigitte

in a village at the foot of Mont Ventoux—

actually, not a village, Brigitte corrects me,

but “un hameau,” a hamlet. The French

are exacting about such distinctions, though Brigitte

has a kind, mischievous smile. Back in the car,

we tear along a series of rutted, stony roads

that web the mountainside, with Brigitte

directing Christopher, “à droite, à gauche, encore à gauche,”

until we come to a grove of pines, cedars, and oaks,

where she says the mushrooms are hidden.

We fan out under the trees, searching the slope,

while Brigitte, looking elfin in her orange hoodie,

waves a stick like a wand, pokes at the dried pine needles

or the dead leaves under wild boxwood bushes,

and sings, “I think there are some over here,”

like a mother leading her toddlers toward Easter eggs.

We laugh and follow after her, cutting the stems

with a tarnished knife she lends us, warning

“Faites attention,” because the blade is sharp.

And gradually we fill our plastic shopping bags

with gnarled orange caps, stained green,

which, much later, back in the States, I learn

are called Lactarius deliciosus or

orange-latex milky, like a shade of paint,

the field guide commenting “edible, although

not as good as the name deliciosus suggests”—

but we already suspect that (they look awful),

and we’ll later unload most of ours on

Christopher and Helen who clearly think of them

as a delicacy . . . but right now we’re

just hunting for them among the sunspots

on the forest floor, filling our bags,

and calling through the trees, the whole afternoon

gathering into the giddy moment

that Brigitte keeps calling us back to.

from Between Lakes
Find more by Jeffrey Harrison at the library

Copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Harrison

Used with the permission of Four Way Books.

Published in Jeffrey Harrison Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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