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All quotes are from The Journal of Beatrix Potter 1881-1897, transcribed from her code writings by Leslie Linder (Penguin, 1989). 

The fungus starred the ground apparently in thousands …

I walked there nearly every day,
saw the place in every season.
My boots sunk into the marshy ground
if I stood still for long.

If walking, a woman.
If not, a mushroom.

Cortinarius and the handsome Lactarius deliciosus being conspicuous …

I wished I could spend all day,
maybe all night, out there
in the woods, in nature,

but at the same time I could not wait
to get home and draw them—
little pagodas, shade for insects,

hiding places for fairies,
the upturned umbrella of the milk cap,
the speckles on the fat stem like
pebbles in a creek or the pock marks
of smallpox

… and joy of joys, the spiky Gomphidius glutinosus, a round, slimy, purple head among the moss, which I took up carefully with my old cheese-knife, and turning over saw the slimy veil …

There’s always an underside to things.
I’ve never regretted looking. The slimy veil
of my scientific study and writing was
the silence that greeted my ideas.

I didn’t have the right sort of body,
it seemed. My thoughts and questions
arose all wrong. I read and read,
chasing philosophies and truths,
never catching them.

… Pasteur is fascinating, the twelve volumes of Brefeld nearly finished me. Pasteur is all in a piece. Brefeld has massive facts [but] is as discursive and unstable as—as Dacromyces deliquescens, which groups of fungi are.

My skirts always get in the way
when I’m out hunting mushrooms.
It’s impossible to hike them up high enough
not to damage my little dears.

I go home muddy, leaving a trail
like rabbit tracks across the parlor floor.

 

 

[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Atthis Arts during our annual Kickstarter.]



Jessy Randall’s poems and stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, Nature, and Scientific American. Her most recent book is Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science (MIT, 2022). She is a librarian at Colorado College, and her website is http://bit.ly/JessyRandall.
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