Alien Species Turned Native


I stuffed my mattress with old photos and ticket stubs

and when it became too lumpy to sleep on, 

I bought another mattress, stacked it on top, 

and filled that one, too.

It worked for a while until the first mattress grew mushrooms

that spread all over. Now, I take their spores everywhere

          and they’ve invaded everything—

I saw some growing inside my medicine cabinet, 

 noticed them at the bottom of the cup of pens on my desk,

  found them in my French Vanilla coffee grounds this morning.


I play the same sidewalk games with my niece 

that my parents played with me on our dead-end street.

When she runs across the yard and jumps into my arms, 

I’m brought back to old summer evenings, the air weighing 

  me down, a strange ringing in my ears. It almost

 sounds like screaming. I pull a mushroom from my ear

and toss it into the street.


The Boy I Loved at 20 played me an indie song

from the passenger seat of my car as we wound around 

unlit back roads toward Stamford. When I hear it now, 

I can feel in the back of my throat the itch of stale smoke 

from his Marlboro Reds and a mushroom appears on my chest.

I refuse to take the song off my playlist,  even though I have to 

            skip it every time. I don’t know why.


Usually, I clean them up right away, too embarrassed to let anyone

see the chaos I’ve caused. But last week, 

I made a bouquet of my mushrooms and gave them to my new lover.         

He put them in a glass vase

and kept them on our coffee table.

Steph Kleid is a New Jersey-based poet and writer who received her MFA from Manhattanville College where she is also an adjunct academic writing professor. Steph is drawn to narrative poetry and stories that explore femininity, the body, and love in its many forms. Her work can be found in Graffiti Literary Magazine and Sunflowers at Midnight.