Years ago, I wrote a long poem describing all the beautiful varieties of mushrooms I saw in the Virginia woods. In its first and only public reading, I noticed people in the audience exchanging embarrassed glances. The poem ended in a tense silence as I tried to understand what had happened. Only later did I realize that they had taken the mushrooms as a metaphor for men, or parts of them.
Sometimes revealing images from our subconscious appear in our writing. Sometimes our images reveal the subconscious of our audience. And as Freud allegedly said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
The master of the double meaning didn’t give up smoking to pacify his critics’ oral fixation, and I didn’t stop writing about nature’s private parts. I like to think that now that I’m in my sixties, I could probably read the same poem with a different result. Maybe the confidence I’ve gained over the years of writing would allow me to deal with an audience’s aural illusions in a different way.
Most likely, I would extend the metaphor to enormous proportions with such a display of hyperbole that no one would be shocked when I served it sliced, buttered and sauteed in a skillet.