Summer 2023 • Vol. XLV No. 1 PoetryJune 14, 2023 |

Walking in the Redwoods with My Mother

Sequoia semperverins, she reads from the musty guidebook. Resting on a log, under dogwood we listen for the rattle of the salamander, roots of red snow plants drawing sugars from the pine. What we can’t hear, the canopy’s future flowers — shrubs seeding in the storm-beaten crown mouth the sound of azaleas, green huckleberry fruiting in the cavity, the heartwood’s radiant decay. We walk toward the I in silence, in the measured splash of Yurok canoes —  listen for the trickle through sapwood as chickarees, long-horned beetles free the seeds from fleshy scales. My mother is a necessary fire and I, her split trunk, a flame’s reiteration. Down the path lies a rainbow of backpacks —  a ring around your broad trunk’s bee-stripped bark, they are holding each other’s fairylike hands, necks craned, searching the sky. If we held our breath would we hear the water’s suspension between friction and gravity? The clouds you create — 

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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.

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