Thursday Apr 18

FoersterJennifer Jennifer Elise Foerster received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has received fellowships to attend Soul Mountain Retreat, the Naropa Summer Writing Program, the Idyllwild Summer Poetry Program, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center. From 2008-2010, Foerster was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. Her poetry has been published in Passages North, Drunken Boat, and Many Mountains Moving, among other journals. A book of her poems is forthcoming from University of Arizona Press. Of German, Dutch, and Muscogee descent, Foerster is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. She currently lives in San Francisco.

We were going into the deep forest.
We carried each a cross.
We were told to take no luggage,
leave our fire for the moths.
They rode their black horses.
We trudged through the snow.
They were smoking and drinking
hot whiskey from their flasks.
We carried their violins
on our backs.  No food.
We marked paths of water
on our wrists
and drank from them.
We licked each other’s hair.
Sang down the dusk.
We waltzed for them by moonlight
as they played their cold fiddles.
We caught a doe in the canyon
when she came down gleaming.
Caught a doe and made sweet
winter rolls with her meat.
We fed them her blood.
They gave us their guns.
We played their violins
and they danced for us—
danced in the cave
among the clean gnawed bones.
We fed them her heart
sliced into coins.
Our hair like a rope
we loaded their carts
for the river under the river
where hunters go.
We left them to drown
beneath the icy stars.

Shell Shaker II

Here on this fluted scarp of mesa
I will gather myself among the flint
and bones—where saguaro
spikes from a ridge,
where your body of salt is written.
I will follow prints of shellfish
over necklaces of rock,
listen for petroglyphs
scrolled across wind.
And barefoot over dirt
I will remember the sound of rattlesnakes
before they wake—
which direction to walk
along the cliff—
how blossoms will return
to paint the weathered marrow—
how wild gourds
culled from sand
and hollowed
reseed each autumn
I cup my ear
Drag my boat through your dust.

Oklahoma Ice

The farm has never been so still—
a sudden chill rattling over fields,
each shaft of wheat snapped
mid-bend into its ice-casement—
and no afternoon so slow. Shadows slope
below the barn. A clock ticks to its stop.
In the brick house licked by snowdrifts
I leaf through maps of land deeds
stacked in the attic’s hat boxes,
find twenty-dollar notes
flattened in the pages of an atlas,
my grandmother’s derringer pistol
tucked into a cowboy boot—
there is too much of a life to sort,
and too fragile—the orchard’s crystalline cast,
branches tinseled against a leaden sky,
the swans in a cabinet of cut glass figures
shivering under dust. I blow
on their chipped wings and snow geese
craze across the frosted pond.
Crunching through furrows patched with snow,
I meet the freeway at the fence’s end
and turn back again to the empty farm.
This is my inheritance:
glassed-over pastures,
corn stalks cracking in the prairie wind—
the echo of her oxygen tank
breathing balanced measures—
each exhale
a chandelier.
Each step a shattered field.

Catalpa Trees

What flower wings
through the broken window
and cuts into my palm?
Sepal and petal,
stamen and pistil,
honey-glanded pitcher plant
beaning from an orchid—
what blooms
from dusk to noon
then sleeps?
Blood on the lips:
nasturtiums, the radial
symmetry of a tulip.
Birds-nest fern,
wild yam—one dim star
hangs above catalpa trees.
Do catalpa trees
flower? Do stars?
I sit in the quiet
of the shattered panes,
cold breeze on my neck
until night,
until nothing left
to write about. No reason
for the star’s light,
the bird’s bloom,
my mouth.