Published on Academy of American Poets (

Touring the Earth Gallery

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
            glacial isostatic adjustment.

In the third chamber, dust
daily rearranged into pastoral scenes:

            beach strewn with radioactive crustaceans—

                      “The Woman at Repose
                      with the Sea Behind Her.”

Note that it is not the woman’s
figure that is kinetic
but the structures above her:

            fugitive lightning,
                      skeleton of a Dodo bird.

There, where a poet scrapes
her tail across tundra—

            see the sand blowing over
            her last regret.

She dips her quill into a pigment jar,
scrawls her forecast across the clouds:

            neon-blue antlers,
                      cellular squid.

Smacked into glass
that resembled the sky—a sparrow
sleeps on its side in the dirt,

            yellow-feathered, wind-stuffed.


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


Jennifer Foerster

Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of The Maybe-Bird (The Song Cave, 2022); 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.

Foerster teaches in the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Low Residency MFA in creative writing and at the Rainier Writing Workshop. She lives in San Francisco.

Date Published: 2017-11-06

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