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.