KR OnlinePoetry

Paradise; Pilot


We carried the swifts in wheelbarrow loads
from factory windows, chimneys.

Lit our fires with peat,
our backs to the murmuring forest.

After the rain, dust motes.
Ghosts in a glade of shade pine.

Now we no longer know the names
for flowers, cannot unfurl them
nor the stars’ coils.

We flare in heaven’s refinery,
raise our smoldering flag.


Circling, your wooden wings
claw at wind—

wind in a canyon
once a sea, where floods
once reached the tails of birds
clinging to clouds by their beaks.

You are scaling the mountain’s
time-cut teeth, chert face
packed with black trees, ice.

You weave a ladder of sun—
gazing to heaven,
eyelids waxed shut.

I track your shadow
in painted snow,

cross the widening plains beneath
shifting hands of fog,

kick the rocks of gods—
their tridents and stumps,
stony mouths.

Oh aerial somersault,
downdraft of sound—

I see you falling.
The ploughman keeps ploughing.

There was no angler to pull you out.

And anyway, you were not falling from the sky—

no shepherds to witness the tail of your dive,
no purposeful ship masts passing by.

Your legs were not corkscrewing from the water.
No rush of air in your falling.
No final gasp, the snap—
no breath.

I bank the rocky ramparts,
pitch against the rain.

A shadow wings over granite.
Conifers drop their sapphire stones.

I stow one under feathers, tuck
the other under tongue—

I can almost see forever
you had said
three miles above the earth:

parachutes, silk filaments—
airmen passing through.

Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Maybe-Bird (The Song Cave, 2022), and served as the associate editor of When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2020). She is the recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, she lives in San Francisco.