INTERPRETIVE WORK: Elizabeth Bradfield
Three poems from Interpretive Work follow. To read more poems from the book, please visit Bradfield's website: www.ebradfield.com
Butch Poem 4: Losing a Father
With him, something left her, some hook
by which she gaffed the world
and held it to sense, to love, to logic
despite the awkward ground she'd learned
to claim. His best son, at his side
she cleared gutters of leaves, shoveled
the drive, changed the Chevy's oil,
sat back after dinner
heavy in a chair. She learned
to be a gentleman. Hard at first for him
to see her tapping out his cigarettes,
wearing his old belt and shoes, to see
what she took as her own.
He came again to love her,
and to love even what rested silent
between them. And she knew her luck.
But when he died some of her swagger,
some of her bullheaded sureness, some hope
to be praised for the likeness she'd made
was shaken. I have no metaphors to lend this,
just witness to her decentering, just certainty
that only the loss of her mother
—the self she made herself against—
could be more difficult.
No More Nature
No more nature we say after fourteen hours on the water in August,
skin ready to crack, lips too tender to close. No more nature
in November when blackfish strand in the salt marsh
and we've stood in sulphur muck as the tide falls out to dark,
their breath whistling hard as we dig pits for flippers
scraped raw by sand, as vets try to predict which
could survive until flood, which should get the syringe
of chemical sleep. No more nature after the storm blows up
while guiding kayakers across the bay, which means towing home
the shoulder injury, prow lunging the chop, tow rope
cinching the gut. No more nature after waking before dawn
to band birds in first frost, shin after shin ringed
with numbered metal, wing after wing teased from nets
until we almost forget how frightened their small hearts made us
when we first held them. No more, we can't take it, can't
resuscitate our wonder, can't keep up with its unrelenting.
But then we have a beer. We take a shower. We decide
to walk around the pond and look for turtles. After all,
we could see a coyote lapping its reflection, we could find
the nest of the great horned owl that calls each night
as we lie in bed, unable to not listen, unwilling to miss anything.
Creation Myth: Periosteum and Self
Hormonally imbalanced females of all deer species
have been known to grow antlers.
This is what I choose. Periosteum rampant on my brow
and testosterone to activate it at the pedicle.
"Luxury organs," so called because they aren't
necessary for survival.
I choose the possibility buried in the furrow
which has ceased to disappear between my eyes
in sleep, in skin my lover has touched her lips to.
Females produce young each year. Males produce antlers.
Forget the in-vitro, expensive catheter of sperm
slipped past the cervix, the long implications
of progeny. I am more suited to other sciences, other growth.
Researchers have snipped bits of periosteum
from pedicles, grafted them onto other parts
of a buck's body, and grown antlers.
I'll graft it to my clavicle. My cheekbone.
Ankle. Coccyx. Breast. At last visible,
the antler will grow. Fork and tine. Push and splay.
Researchers have tricked deer into growing and casting
as many as four sets of antlers in one calendar year.
It won't wait for what's appropriate, but starts
in the subway, in the john, talking to a friend about her sorrows,
interviewing for a job. My smooth desk, my notebook,
my special pen with particular ink, my Bach playing
through the wall of another room—not the location
of the prepared field, but what the light says, when
the light says now.
Deer literally rob their body skeletons to grow
antlers they'll abandon a few months later.
It could care less about the inconvenience forking
from my knee, the difficulty of dressing, embracing, or
piloting a car. It doesn't care
Essentially bucks and bulls are slaves to their antlers.
if I'm supposed to be paying bills or taking the dog
for her evening walk. There is no sense to it, no logic, just thrust.
It does its work. It does its splendid, difficult, ridiculous work and then,
making room for its next, more varied rising,
gorgeous and done, it falls away.