May 1998

Richard Foerster


R.T. Smith

R.T. Smith
  Muffy Bolding
  John Kinsella
  Richard Foerster
  A.F. Moritz
  Miriam Levine
  Louis Armand
  David Shevin
  Stellasue Lee
  Adrian C. Louis
  David Sutherland
  Gregory Djanikian
  Paolo M. Bottigelli

J.M. Spalding
  R.T. Smith

William Heath

Douglas Thornsjo

Richard Foerster's third book of poetry, Trillium, will be published by BOA Editions this May. His two previous collections, both from Orchises Press, are Sudden Harbor and Patterns of Descent. Among his numerous awards are an NEA Fellowship, a Maine Arts Commission grant, Poetry's Bess Hokin Prize, and the "Discovery"/The Nation Award. He lives in York Beach, Maine, where he edits the literary magazine Chelsea, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary later this year.
Tattoo    Read Along with the Author

I’ve tried to keep my mind a blank
canvas while the artist’s electric
fire prowls my thigh, and trust
in his expertise to affix the ink
exactly as designed—an intricate
interlocking of double, fracted
curves that should, I’ve planned, shift
kinetically: a fluid shadow
at the groin—abstracted, yes,
but still, one might imagine dolphins
breaking through the surface, those pirates’
souls transformed, leaping up
from the troubled sea of their denial,
attending, at last, a god in their midst.

O, Martyrs! Slowly beneath the needle’s
wasping, beneath what seems random
sputterings of jet and blood (What
have I done?), the lines begin
to arc across my leg’s pale ocean,
then coil back to their lasting deep
embrace with skin and schema. Yet why
this adolescent ritual, this whim
at forty-eight? Wasn’t the sanctioned
infantile knife enough, or the chrism
and splash to the brow, the bishop’s slap,
the banns and vows, the Forgive me, Father,
for I have sinned? I should have no need
of selfish sacrament, this stain

that casts me out. But look—it’s done.



The Pornographer    Read Along with the Author

Anarch of the actual, mine
is the dream of Eden,

minus a bouncer at the door,
world where Botticelli breasts

rise on imagination’s foam,
where unappeasable arousal

heaves in oceanic swells. Maestro
with a metronome, miniaturist

of the oversized, I am the Siren
and ship of singular desire,

the mast you lash yourself to
to hear the unhearable and not

perish, not die entirely perhaps
to the sweet flesh, the pure

matter of being, now
puddled in your hand.



A Bottle of Château d’Yquem 1964    Read Along with the Author

I cannot speak
of any perfect balance
between the wine’s color
and the tannin of the cask,

or even whether some lusciousness adhered
anywhere else than to the glasses
we raised in toasts to our lives
and all the sentiments we thought
that extravagant wine embodied,

nor, today, could I swear
it held the promised hint
of ripened apricots or pears.

I’d like to believe whatever substance
passed across our tongues that day
became the body’s, could not be forgotten,
not become the mere evaporate we shared,
leaving no residue other than abstractions,

not leave us empty.

When you told me you saved
the bottle all these years,
I asked, What for?

Now you write that cancer grips you
like a weasel at the throat, that surgeons
have cut away part of your tongue
and palate. My encouragements
sputter, seem like dregs.

Even this poem, which emerged
from the pale citrine of my writing tablet,
lets a sediment escape:
If only you’d . . . You shouldn’t’ve.

This is the radiation of reason,
the chemo of acceptance: that the anarchic
cell’s secure in the fortress
of the world’s marrow. Like a courtier
I’ve come, summoned to its feast.

This evening I wandered the garden
shuddering beneath the chill
Maine air. The jonquils
are fewer this year than last,
struggling to recover
a narrow band

of yellow. It is enough perhaps
to remember the light.



Richard Foerster: Poetry
Copyright © 1999 The Cortland Review Issue ThreeThe Cortland Review