Balance and imbalance, the solstice teetering on the edge, a held breath—these symbols fill this exquisite poem by Richard Foerster. The speaker both invests in darkness and is “a celebrant of solstice light.” He well knows “the situation of our time,” and is also aware of deep beauty, the rustle of life. Perhaps the afterlife he speaks of is in part the still echoing “certainty, patience, hope” that linger despite our losing of belief.
The quote in line six refers to Auden’s “New Year Letter”: “The situation of our time/ Surrounds us like a baffling crime.” The epigraph is from A Whole World: Letters from James Merrill. This poem will appear in Foerster’s ninth book of poetry, With Little Light and Sometimes None at All, due from Littoral Books in September 2023.
Foerster’s numerous honors include the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, two National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowships, as well as two Maine Literary awards for poetry. Among his many books is Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems, published in 2019. He lives in a former church in Eliot, Maine, with his partner, the artist Douglas Taylor, whose artwork accompanies the poem.
Betsy Sholl, MAJ poetry editor.
Yet Another Poem at Solstice
. . . so koukla, all is death + darkness
in this ravishing bright day.
Pivot, fulcrum, the moment like Anubis’s feather : and the heart-
heavy planet sinks toward inevitable dark. Ironic
that I should invest myself in darkness like a sacramental robe,
here, beneath this nave of ancient oaks at 5:14 a.m.,
a celebrant of solstice light. But what can come
of ceremony? No escaping “the situation of our time,”
the bullets and bunkers of despair a hemisphere away,
the despot’s crimes. And yet again I wait for a rising wind
to louver the broad green limbs and open blue portals
as if to summon me through and up into those airy absences
I once believed in—certainty, patience, hope. A rustle in the leaves
portends its own ravishing afterlife. Of this, too, I am aware.
Image at top: Douglas Taylor, Autumn Stroll.