Commonplace
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www.common-place.org · vol. 13 · no. 1.5 · November 2012
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Poetic Research Department


Elizabeth Bradfield
Poems
Statement of Poetic Research

Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)

I had been twice to Pond
before I learned you had
not only been there, but filmed it.
Of course I felt stupid, losing
the trail so clearly marked.

Each time we went, all hundred
of us plus the Russian crew, some
older one who saw the steep climb
from the beach, the long dirt road
to the store and cultural center
became visibly daunted and then
was offered a ride on a four-wheeler
by a passing elder.

Each time drugs were offered
by teenagers on the co-op steps
(coop, I kept seeing). I want to kill myself.
One of the black poems inked
on the porch rail. Once,

a whale (narwhale, beluga) rolled
in the tideline chip. Just spine
and gristle, but the rope
that tied it a brilliant yellow
and its lungs the lapis of Keats.

After throat singing and Arctic
games, I bought a copy
of your film. It is on the shelf
by my desk, still wrapped
two years later. There are
so many reasons I am
afraid to watch it.

On Beechy

The stones on the graves, like all the other stones, are fossils:
corals and crynoids from the old seas of an old climate. There is a lot to say
about Franklin, the man who ate his boots and whose grave

is not among these, is not yet known. And Lady Franklin,
who made sure his ghost was chased across the Arctic, his name
hove into news. On the point above Somerset House,

built and stocked should he return, ruining in Arctic time,
my favorite cairn: rocks topped by a steel plaque, metal etched
with a man in thick-framed glasses. Caricature of a scientist

from a time even stranger than Franklin's, another lapsarian age.

Iron hoops that once ringed barrels of food and fuel
decorate the shore, circle stones. A ship's mast points out
toward where they might have gone: horizon, heaven, hell.

We wander. We avoid what's forbidden. We wonder
what's in the brass tubes laid out like kindling. Someone
keeps watch for bears. Someone talks about history.

I pry a fossil from frozen mud. I don't want to leave
anything of myself, but to take a mnemonic of what I've marked,
marred? That tribute feels right.

Thinking of Places I Have Begun to Know

Yearn, yearn
what bloom has gone
to paper now, brown?
What bulbil ready
on which stalk?

Campion, gather
your snow drift
Your loess-blanket

Which bay is iced?
Which glacier slows?

Leaves here, south burnish
Then an odd warmth
& grass sprouts

Which lead? Which polynya
What hunt now
at Pond, at Clyde?

What, shot, drapes
the snow-go,
the towed sledge?

Oh my holiday knowledge
My Augusts      Deep
in years but not broadened
to seasons I try

to picture it      Caribou
over the tracks of caribou
left last year that
I walked      Fox white
Ducks gone      And what remains
and so belongs

Things I think you'd hate about Provincetown in 2008


Portuguese families cashed out and moved to Truro.

Apples, chokecherries, peach plums, rose hips, blueberries ungathered. Fallen.

Not so sure about whale watching—you may have even liked it.

Condos on the edge of the quaking bog.

That so little's changed (taffy, kites, summer's ephemera).

That town hall still stands but this year's town meeting will be in the basement of the high school annex, hall condemned and funds for repair uncertain.

Fast ferries.

Unsure about the old museum with its ½-scale model of the Rose Dorothea repurposed as the library; the old library a real estate office.

(Where did the art, the horse-drawn fire truck, the model of Harry Kemp's dune shack go?)

Drag queens balanced on segues.

You'd love the West End Racing Club—Flyer in his eighties still teaching the kids to swim and sail, still terrifying in his blustered love.

Wired Puppy—fancy coffee sipped while blogging.

Maybe Ellie, who each night sings in the town square, linebacker shoulders, short skirt, heels.

My slant attention and squint questions.

Maybe me—childless (you were, too), paired to a woman twelve years older than me (thirty years between you and Miriam), calling this place home and yet so often afield (your ship not even housed here, but halfway north, in Maine).


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