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Kristine Rae Anderson’s poetry has appeared in Copperfield Review, Soundings East, Reed, and Crab Creek Review, among other publications. She has received Tomales Bay and Fishtrap fellowships as well as first place award in the Mary C. Mohr Poetry Contest (Southern Indiana Review). She holds an MFA in poetry from New England College. Kristine grew up in California’s Santa Clara Valley when it was transitioning from orchards to tract homes, before it emerged as Silicon Valley. An educator who has taught adult college courses and workshops, Kristine currently lives with her family in southern California.
There’s a kind of translucence in Field of Everlasting, light shining through the images, and through the words themselves. It’s very clear light, crystalline-sharp, but also mysterious. Kristine Rae Anderson imbues the everyday of life and love and loss — the particulars of being daughter/lover/mother/wife — with something tender and magical. With a deft and precise and lyrical touch, she turns what happened into a kind of eternity. These are keenly observed, beautifully wrought, quietly moving poems. ~Cecilia Woloch
The unforgettable poems in Field of Everlasting shine their light on the small, crucial moments that locate ground zero in a woman’s life. I’m drawn to their grounding in the body, their playful questing, their subtle music. Kristine Rae Anderson’s clear, unadorned voice is alive with love. ~Joan Larkin
An army marches on its stomach. ~General Napoleon The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. ~my mother
My mom, of course, was wrong. It’s flesh, not meat,
that moves a man. A single Helen stirs
profound desire in ways a kitchen queen
can only dream. A hundred apple pies
would never prompt the men of Troy to fight
or all the military might of Greece
to take their short-lived days so far away
from home. Troops’ bodies filled the Trojan horse,
a gift to woo the stubborn foe. Isn’t
that the aim? In love or war, men crave
to be consumed—to penetrate the host,
to climb inside and conquer to the pith.
So, General, now, the truth: Men won’t sacrifice
for bread alone, but for the heat that makes it rise.
A gift, my mother said, from a lover.
A fine brocade: The background sea green.
Salmon and silver threads. Some black and brown.
Before my life, before my mother and my father.
Nothing ever came of the cloth.
The fine weave, folded flat and stored in plastic fifty years,
reflecting this late afternoon light.
Here are figures woven in. A woman, it looks like,
offering something. To a man. Her husband? Lover?
Hair wrapped tightly around her head.
Tiny fingers permanent as bones in a desert.
Her dress flows easily, fine drapery covering a lovely window.
I cannot see what’s cupped in her hands.
The man stands on a platform, under a roof,
the roof lipped up and lyrical.
The woman waits outside, below, in the weather.
It must be spring. White cherry blossoms on elegant tree limbs.
The young woman, her present hovering,
arm always outstretched. The man always above her.
Or away. My mother’s lover must have traveled,
unfamiliar lands of ancient colors,
lands, for him, loosed from time or wife.
The fabric a talisman he offered his other.
What moved my mother, one day, to pack away the silk,
wrapped in plastic, sealed in darkness—
a drawer a closet or carton under the bed?
I imagine no final knock on the door,
only images fading in a woman’s mind,
wondering what she might do now,
hands folded on her lap, stitches never taken.
Maybe she watched for his handwriting in the mail,
in the end grew accustomed to the quiet.
When I was sixteen, when this man had long receded,
the purpose of the fabric to my mother dissipated,
she handed me the yards of silk,
told me to make something of it.
I hold up a child’s T-shirt to the light,
squint to see its shape. That summer he was six,
running toward first grade. I fold the tee
(it looks so small), place it in a grocery sack
of clothes to give away. Another shirt,
some shorts, PJs, a pair of socks with Spiderman
stitched along the side. Into the bag, I lay
gray sweatpants that my eight-year-old wore all spring:
climbing up the playground slide, sitting cross-legged
on the floor, a storybook open in his lap.
For someone else these clothes will mean the boy
is growing in. For me, whole days and months spun out.
I gather up the fabric, hold it close,
bow my head and smell the scent of Purex,
feel well-worn threads that rubbed against his skin.
Southern California Wildfires:
Observed from Riverside, October 2003
It’s the orange glare you notice first, flaring against shimmering gray downtown skyscrapers, glass monoliths rising into smoke. The land ablaze to the east, to the north and south. You’ve seen the footage on TV; just over nearby hills and in the canyons, flames wrench trees and homes from shallow roots, devour thirsty ground, throw soot into the air. Even this far away you think you hear it flapping like—someone said—unfurled sails in a tempest. Hundred-degree early autumn heat blows in from the desert, goads the fires forward.
Where you stand, wind swats at palm fronds and magnolia leaves, tugs at your t-shirt sleeve. On the ground around your feet, ashy currents toss dead autumn leaves that jump and skitter like mice in retreat. Your eyes sting. Everyone coughing. Ash sticks in your hair.
You live in a tinderbox. You can’t yet know how much worse it will get.