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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Elizabeth Bradfield

On Another Ship, Elsewhere, in the Past

photo of rope and cables in a rusty ship wall

No remembered lurch crunch though there must have been when hull met rock, uncharted, 2 am-ish, short summer dark. Tide in Alaska ebb, many meters to fall quick. Old hand four (five? seven?) weeks into six-month deckhand contract. Had drilled for it: abandon ship.

No. Did feel it. Lurched up from book in crew lounge to bridge, down belowdecks for gear, up to liferafts strapped to top deck. Crane whine lowering Zodiacs. Slip open (the name the name the name can feel cold stainless, slick, tension on mouth numb hands weak what what what is it called) pelican hook. Count together to heave over plastic shell. Pops open on impact, orange tent inflates, floats upside down. Right it. Drag to stern by thin painter. Ladder too high above water. Jury-rig semi-teetering steps. Guests lined up with coats, pills, bags (not allowed). Help clamber down, in.

dark, damp floor sags
soft, awkward—one woman hauled over lip
blush of pink nylon panties
Boat tug-propped against wreck. Stay with mate, engineer, another deckie. Coats list from companionway hooks. Silence, waves, hull groan. Hours. Slow tidal refloat and the next day resume.
snuck, ziplocked, shoved
twin buds forced by notebook corners
bloom on upper thighs

Neko Redux

abstract photo of rippling water

A gift. This. Unfair to claim & there were others and yet this gift: a Minke exhales, unseen but heard. Spot its dorsal sharp among ice, in calm-silk water. Then along and under (under) my boat, eye skyward. Sea-warbled but clear. Open. Met. Calm water. Flank gold with diatoms. Still. Chunks of ice. Enough time enough weather enough whale enough boats for all on ship to muster, seek, find and not crowd. To drift as it circles, approaches, finds us approachable, re-approached. All balance, all sense recalibrated.
stretched on low ice
ignored in near distance
a leopard seal yawns


Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of the poetry collections Once Removed, Approaching Ice, Interpretive Work and the forthcoming Toward Antarctica. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, West Branch, Orion and her awards include a Stegner Fellowship and the Audre Lorde Prize. Founder and editor-in-chief of Broadsided Press, she lives on Cape Cod, works as a naturalist locally as well as on expedition ships around the globe, and teaches creative writing at Brandeis University.

Other works by Elizabeth Bradfield »

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