White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Elizabeth Bradfield
Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of two poetry collections: Approaching Ice and Interpretive Work. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Orion, The Believer, Poetry and she has been awarded the Audre Lorde Prize and a Stegner Fellowship, among other honors. Founder and editor-in-chief of Broadsided Press, she lives on Cape Cod, works as a naturalist locally as well as on expedition ships, and is the current Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University and on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at University of Alaska Anchorage. www.ebradfield.com
Featured Work
Subscribe to RSS     Share




An island from the land of documented firsts (continental landing, overwintering, geographic pole, magnetic pole, continental crossing, kiteski, solo this and that), first denial: Shackleton’s grave. Here and lonely for what had, home, been imagined. Ferry over bins of champagne glasses. Butlers, parkas over black suits, urge gun it. Gusts strafe the harbor, twist up waterspouts, howl by careened factories (retired). The historian got married here so masters ceremonies. B will watch my boat, let me stand outside picket, lay eyes on the starred stone. But I’m tired. Already. This is not my pilgrimage.


oil-green grass, rib-white fence

a single marker marked

above a cobble of bone




Shuttle to research base. All amenities, all proper gear and protocol. Pick up biologists. Rat eradication talk by the nonprofit head. X tons of poison chopper-dropped, glaciers for quarantine, tussock grass again (they hope) nested. Donations.


silos loom, rust

6” whale oil eye level

no pipit on steeple or trypot


Now that church, post office, museum are shored up, another restoration, another (hoped) erasure. Another error blurred, overwritten, transformed.

Salisbury Plain



squashed into mud

becoming soil no tree will use

body, beak, feet, splain


One king stands over another laid flat, lifeless but less than dead. No skua plunge. Eye whole. Still attended. The one standing cries to beckon/ward off. Jab and nod. Jab and nod. No idea how long this will continue. No idea what the dead one died of. Back to ship after group A’s allotted time (one hour). I won’t return again this season.



Sea Day



                 dissolve     dissolve


                               what the water offers


                                      what I’d like to take it up on

After Kinnes Cove



Our new curse, shared, muttered when it goes to shit: Kinnes Cove. Wrecked from yesterday’s 70 knots. Set out on glass, dallying, then blown rage. Spindrift the proper but wrong word for what blew over us, made us flotsam. Not sure how long we pounded into wind, crests as the ship repositioned, drifted in, repositioned to make us a lee. Clawed the tiller Blackburn-like. Got passengers back, got J into the bow as ballast, kept close astern in prop-smoothed wake. Stupid fucking way to die, in the place of my fancies, away.


small ember

in fractal ice, spume squall

the pulse still burns

Elizabeth Bradfield

Notes on the Text



Haibun, a classic Japanese form, recounts everyday life or travels in diary-like prose scattered with small poems, often haiku. The best examples are found in the writings of Bashō, the 17th century master of the form. Try Back Roads to Far Towns (White Pine Press, 2004). As with much Japanese poetry and art, Bashō’s work is infused with allusions to poets, stories, figures and cultural tropes that his contemporaries would recognize—here, end notes serve the modern reader as an approximation of that experience.


“Graveside”: Grytviken was a major whaling port on South Georgia. Sir Ernest Shackleton organized his rescue effort of the men left on Elephant Island from this port, and his widow buried him in the whaler’s cemetery when he died on a return voyage to Antarctica in 1922. To “careen” a boat means to beach a boat in order to repair it or, in the sense used here, to retire it.


“Grytviken”: The South Georgia pipit is a small, sparrow-like bird that is gone from populated areas of the Island (rats and habitat destruction are the main culprits) but holds on still on some isolated islets. There’s hope that, with rat eradication, it could nest on South Georgia again.


Copyright © Elizabeth Bradfield. White Whale Review, issue 6.1

Previous Author Prev Next Author