Edited by Dava Sobel

I was troubled by how easy it was to mistake
one thing for another, as with snakes—

the Scarlet King resembling the Coral
with its arrangement of black

on yellow, or the harmless Hognose
which is often confused

with a Copperhead. Likewise, mushrooms—
however you might examine the warts

on the umbrella caps or the thin white gills
you could miss some telltale sign—

the partial veil around a stem, say, or
white spores, the Sprouting Amanita

pretending to be a Young Puffball
and then, days later

the lethal symptoms would begin: burning
thirst, blurred vision,

your heartbeat growing
dangerously slow.

We lived like this for more than a year—
unable to tell which

doorknobs were ordinary and which
harbored the virus, afraid to taste the

vivid winter air.