First Poem


December 21, 2019 by The Citron Review

by Richard Foerster


Into that city of silences, I carried my pursed heart,
carried secrets crammed like threadbare clothes
in a battered valise, its labels of a foreign port.

The city held its tongue at first even as alien aromas
blathered from storefronts where vendors stacked
slatted crates in tiered displays and mouthed seductions

I was too green, and poor, to claim. All was promise
and bruise, my common lot among provisioned throngs.
Afternoons I’d slip like a coin down a sewer grate, lost

to the dark embrace of boyhood, and drift along the winding
river’s bank where a virgin forest’s gnarled roots gripped
my eroded path and seemed to hold the world in place.

Muskrats slid, rippling the clouded flow, and birds
I’d one day learn to name by song scavenged at my feet
and spoke of things I was too young to know. For years

I’ve lifted that river like a string of words, pulled it taut
between my hands and reconsidered the life I have, alone
and loved among the indifferent hungers of the world.


Richard Foerster’s eighth collection is Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems (Tiger Bark Press, 2019). His numerous honors include the “Discovery”/The Nation Award, Poetry’s Bess Hokin Prize, a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, and two NEA Poetry Fellowships. He lives in Eliot, Maine.


One thought on “First Poem

  1. Carole Donovan says:

    As I read “First Poem,” I felt myself walking with him…my heart was packed tightly with the almost painful stress of unfamiliarity..a different unfamiliarity from his, the uninteresting details of which I will not bother with right now. I also suddenly remembered that treasured moment when I first heard the beauty of a bird I was too young to name that would later become my forever favorite feathered singer on earth thanks to instruction from my Peterson Field Guide…the hermit thrush.

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