National Poetry Month Day 9: Jennifer Foerster


Jennifer Elise Foerster is an alumna of the Institute of American Indian Arts and received her MFA from the Vermont College of the Fine Arts. She is the recipient of a 2017 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship in 2014, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University from 2008-2010. A member of the Mvskoke Nation, Jennifer is pursuing her PhD at the University of Denver. Her first book of poems, Leaving Tulsa, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2013, and was a Shortlist Finalist for the 2014 PEN Open Book Award. Her poems have recently appeared in Colorado Review, Eleven Eleven, The Brooklyn Rail, and Kenyon Review Online.


Spring in the Caldera

Ruby-crowned kinglets
trill from thickets.

______Green spears, lily-like
______clutch from a ditch.

On the first day of spring
gathering seeds—

____________golden burrs of chinkapin
__________________buckthorn’s blue-black berries—

a mud-dampened path
empties out at a stream.

________________________I stop to write
________________________& it snows in my notebook.


After snowfall, willows
articulate themselves

slant toward the current
& freeze

sentenced above ice floes
to silence

______another art.


Build a small fire
______dry sticks

________________________Outside the window
______________________________the river is high

______________________________under red-
______________________________stemmed dogwood.


The fire leapt
from ridge to ridge.     I carry your ashes through snow.
____________________Ice flakes
________________________blow over the river—
______cinders from the morning’s stove.


Climb three tiers of lakes
through towering tamaracks
lodgepole pine
____________to scale the burn
__________________fossilized ice
crunching branchlets
____________shiny white bones
________________________my steep trail heaped with obsidian.


______Stitched across the eastern slope
__________________saplings, new sprung.

____________________________________Charcoal fingers
______claw the sky, roots
______a helix of dying spiders.


From a veiled ridge, mist
spills over the caldera.

____________Throats of ponderosa
____________crack in their icy casements.

________________________Below me, Blue Lake
________________________blinks its blue eye.


______Blackened candles
__________________blistered bark, owls
______roosting in trees’ charred snags—
______________________________no one to hear out here but wind

____________soot-stained chandeliers
________________________high in the old-growth pine
__________________white pine
__________________scotch pine
__________________pitch pine
__________________burnt-out mansion


After the settling of scoria and ash
clear water fills the basin

I wash in the deep
glaciated canyon

Smoke-blue water
flecked with green

Half-drowned logs
scarved with moss

______Clogged riffles
__________________Lapping lake


Lichens, bright lime
cling to damp bark.

Fallen trees
wedged into banks
make pools for Chinook,
redband trout.

Where earth is soft
elk spines
surface from snowmelt.

Wild asparagus,
wood leeks
shoot up from muddy seeps.


Winter’s lake

into a meadow.

I balance on spines
of sunken giants
____________plaited waves
________________________matted grass—
__________________if I could bury you
__________________here, at last.


Days when there is sun
I carry a book
to the clearing at the stream’s bend.

The wind, spring friend
picks its dark pages.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →