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About this poet

Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of Bright Raft in the Afterweather (University of Arizona Press, 2018) and Leaving Tulsa (University of Arizona Press, 2013). A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Foerster has received a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University. She lives in San Francisco.

The Last Kingdom

Three days before the hurricane
a woman in white is hauling milk.

The beach wails.
She is swinging her pail.

I am sleeping in a tent of car parts, quilts
when the woman passes through the heavy felt door.

If your dream were to wash over the village, she says.
We listen—seagulls resisting the shore.

Hermit crabs scuttle under tin.
The children hitch their sails in.

Later that night from the compound walls
I see her hitchhiking the stars’ tar road—

black dress, black boots, black bonnet,
a moon-faced baby in a basket.

*

                    Thus, alone, I have conceived.

A tent dweller moved to the earth’s edge,
I bathe in acidic waves.

Everyone in the village
watches at the cliff the tidal wave
breach, roll across the sky.

They are feasting on cold
fried chicken, champagne—
I have no dancing dress for the picnic.

The king dozes in his gravelly castle.
The band plays its tired refrain.

Men, drunk on loosened wind
raise their cups to mechanical dolphins
tearing through the sheet-metal sea.

In the shadow of petrels’
snowy specters, drifting monuments
crash and calve.

But I, as water under wind does,
I tear my hair,
scalp the sand—

the sun, eclipsed by dark contractions
turns its disc to night—

fish like bright coins
flip from my hand.

*

                    Waking, I find I am alone in the kingdom.

The moon lays upon me
its phosphorescent veil.

The floating world—luciferous:
bleached coral coliseum,
a mermaid’s molten gown—

she turns her widening wheels,
spills her pail of glacial milk.

I could almost swim forever
to her beat of frozen bells.

But a sheet of water
doesn’t travel with the wave.

And the morning like a tender body
slides out of silt:

I press against its damp
rough surface, an ear.

Originally published in OAR. Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Foerster. Used with the permission of the author.

Originally published in OAR. Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Foerster. Used with the permission of the author.

Jennifer Foerster

Jennifer Foerster

Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of Bright Raft in the Afterweather (University of Arizona Press, 2018) and Leaving Tulsa (University of Arizona Press, 2013). A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Foerster has received a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University. She lives in San Francisco.

by this poet

poem

There were still songbirds then
nesting in hackberry trees
and a butterfly named Question.

I remember ivy trembling
at the vanishing point of your throat.

Then the timelines crashed.
California split into an archipelago.
Orchards withered under blooms of ash.

Now

poem

Chicks—dead in a once teeming reef
and a mother bird
scouring ghostly coral.

            We dozed, broke our machines.

Extreme heat, intensifying rain
will bring the island states’ collapse,
a fast decline of sea grass.

            Our time period is one of
           

poem

for Cosetta

Once there were coyotes, cardinals
in the cedar. You could cure amnesia
with the trees of our back-forty. Once
I drowned in a monsoon of frogs—
Grandma said it was a good thing, a promise
for a good crop. Grandma’s perfect tomatoes.
Squash. She taught us to