Jennifer Elise Foerster
-Cannonball River, November 2016
We commit ourselves to the count,
bees without a queen, swarming frozen ground.
Oatmeal, canned beans. Garlic salt, hominy.
White, brown, or wild rice.
Rock salt. Flour.
The hours lift their lacy black veils—
a procession of women in mourning.
Startled, a doe slips into fog—a fugue
casts my shadow to the other side of grief,
leaves the body at the mudbank, gutted,
hoofprints trailing into winter wheat.
Lost, we talk of wilderness
and failure, time’s sentient materialism,
the clock without hands now, without its tick—
awake snow-covered in a dead meadow
to sort more piles of things—no answer.
Fresh hay for horse feed, tipi poles, propane.
Hours like dull gold blow across the prairie
where Hoktvlwv travels to the inner reaches
alone, lantern clicking in the grass.
Brightness for a moment
until time returns—
how crowded this terminal of the world.
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 there is no nectar. No rotten fruit.
The air is quiet.
Once, in Russia,
a population of hooded crows,
transported them 500 miles
westward. Winter came.
They never caught up with their flock.
With crusts of calcified algae
we catalogue each day lost:
hot thermals, cirrus vaults,
fistfuls of warblers hurtling into dark.
There was no sound to the forgetting.
We knew the heart would implode
before the breath and lungs collapsed.
That the world would end in snow,
an old woman walking alone,
empty birdcage strapped to her back.
Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of three books of poetry, Leaving Tulsa, Bright Raft in the Afterweather, and The Maybe-Bird. She has been the recipient of a 2017 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she lives in San Francisco.