Alumnae Poets

Rebecca Foust '79

Rebecca Foust
Rebecca Foust’s six books include The Unexploded Ordnance Bin, winner of the 2018 Swan Scythe Press Chapbook Award and Paradise Drive, winner of the Press 53 Award for Poetry and reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, Philadelphia Inquirer,  and elsewhere. Recognitions include the Cavafy and James Hearst Prizes (Poetry), the Lascaux and American Literary Review Prizes (Fiction), the Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize, and fellowships from The Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Sewanee. Foust was Marin County Poet Laureate in 2017-19 and works as Poetry Editor for Women’s Voices for Change and as an assistant Editor for Narrative Magazine.

Select Poems

Caught in a gust stilled by the camera lens, the flag is not quite flagging −

more like shying away. The lower right corner lofts up, trying

to refold itself like the coffin flag kept in a tight triangle

in Grandma’s attic, brought down to hang on her house four times

a year, sunrise to sunset, taken down at the least threat of rain.


This house is like her house, and also maybe, our country: good bones,

clean lines, a strong foundation, and in need of work. The cellar

is deep and cool, with rows of canned peaches, beets, and beans

caught in light slanting down through the coal chute. Yes, there are

too many bodies buried down there, and the coal was a disaster,


but look − those jars glow like jewels casting their colors on the dirt walls,

and the upstairs rooms could − if we unlocked them − hold multitudes.

The porch could be set, like this, to welcome travelers again:

a rocker, lace curtains, a low stoop where Papap sat to watch hawks

swinging parabolas over the meadow. That other Athens


was the birthplace of democracy until it fell, and now, signs of our fall

are all around: rumors of war, children wailing behind barbed wire,

and after the wildfires, the sky gone down on one knee

in broad streaks of blood and ash. I still have hope, but it’s flagging,

and I keep shying away from belief in anything but sorrow


in tomorrow’s news. For three years I’ve been afraid and unable to write

about America. I am afraid now even to talk about America.

Papap fought, Dad fought, many cousins fought, and those who survived

would say it was worth it. I miss the parades, miss being a child

with a nickel flag in my hand, or just looking up and seeing a flag like this

− any American flag − and feeling only proud.

(from The Map of Every Lilac Leaf: Poets Respond to the Smith College Museum of Art, 2020)

Poetry Center Reading

Fall 2020