She wants so badly to catch something, net held
over a reflecting eddy. She’s pulled in
jewel-eyed frogs, their toes
splayed on the canoe’s smooth hull,
throats throbbing. She’s captured
small snails and, once, some roe, but mostly
just bottom muck, silt, and thickening leaves. Again,
into the water lilies and duckweed, the heavy sack
of ooze deep within the net’s bell, weight
unexpected as a breast’s warm heft. Inside, mummichogs
and sticklebacks torque themselves, and she sifts
through the black spill for shrimp. The net
bends heavy from her hand,
spills over. Reach into my chest,
into the bone sieve where I keep my heart, and this
is what you’ll find. Substance black,
thick, and silken: staining the lines of your skin,
smelling potent and determined,
shot through with green ribbons of grass,
small, silver things twitching and gasping in it,
remarkable and ready in seconds to drown.
Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of two poetry collections: Approaching Ice and Interpretive Work. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming 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, 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.