The Outskirts by Jennifer Elise Foerster


Each day a threshold of the same dream.

I awake to the clatter of leaves,
a frayed dawn cawing in its wooden cage.

Each day the same street.
Each street the same name.

Surfacing from a cutbank –
the sketch of your face.

                           Or only my reflection
streaking the glass as the train
tunnels the morning fog.


I skirt the park into the city blocks
where the grocer smokes over his rotting tomatoes,
a seamstress hoses her concrete stoop.  Green glass
and bottle caps collect along the curb, newspapers
tumble under blusters of boots.

I walk with crooked wind within the thick bouganvilla,
call back horses from the corridors of hours.
Beneath the blackened pearl of sun
I follow your mirage, while somewhere south
the bud of thunder tears itself

open over a cloud-dense lake.  In the collar
of my raincoat
                           your name gathers.


I climb to the meadow
and lie on my back
as the old men slowly step among the bones.
Below, the traffic is a crushing river.
Somewhere between wanting to be found and
not wanting to be found
I wait for your return – to distinguish
your face from fragments
of clouds and skylarks as they scatter
from the whirling cedar.
But only your silence
writes me again into a field of 
wind where the white seeds vanish.
I turn in the grass.  Bury
my hands.  Late light
filters through a canopy
of leaves.  Thin
stems break as they braid
into my hair.  The greening
hills seal themselves,
shut around the graves.


Contributor Notes

“Pottery Lessons” and “Outskirts” are from my “Magdalena” series—a book-length sequence of poems exploring my relationship with America as ghost, landscape, and story. The poems are written in conversation with Magdalena, who may be myself, as I once was, or who may also be America—the land itself—as it once was, and as it has become.

Jennifer Elise Foerster received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (July 2007) and her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2003). 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, Jennifer was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. Her poetry has been published in Ploughshares, Passages North, Many Mountains Moving, and Drunken Boat, among other journals. Of German, Dutch, and Muscogee descent, she is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. Jennifer lives in San Francisco where she works as a freelancer for non-profit development. She is currently working on a chronicle of poems in Muscogee, German, and English.