Elizabeth Bradfield

Dispatch from this Summer

       Gypsy moth: Lymantria dispar dispar

Frayed, moth-eaten, vulnerable.  Those Florida dancers

gunned down & my young self coming out dancing & pathetic

fallacy (dispar dispar) crawls all over June’s fresh oaks,


gnawing them to a February canopy.  The news, bad

oracle, gnaws fact & rumor. Above, unrelenting

mastication, defoliation.  Lymantria, ‘destroyer,’ all else gone,


you hump up even the stiff needles of pines.  What will happen

come winter, no sun stored?  Should we spray?  Should

we shun social media?  Avoid large aggregations?  How


hot the birds must be, unshaded in their nests.  (Guilty

thrill of peering down on them, black-billed cuckoos calling.)

Other wings.  The white towering stagecraft of angels


sentry at Orlando’s mourning.  We consider what it would take

to pick the trees clean.  Could we?  The bark the grass the ground

writhes.  In a grove in China, a grim documentary:


honeybees gone, people pollinate fruit trees by hand.  I twitch away

from one caterpillar dangling from its thread, hanging by

the silk that brought it here, to the New World, to Massachusetts


even, because some merchant in 1869—while Grant

took the presidency and Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke

before Congress and the Golden Spike was hammered


into Utah and the South fumbled through what’s called

Reconstruction—thought crop, harvest, riches & hoped

the long, expensive trek to mulberry unnecessary.  We gnaw


through news feeds.  We post & share, unsure

if we are offering or consuming.  In the forest, a constant

heavy frass.  On my side of the river, healthy trees.  Oak leaves


thick and dark.  In the dance clubs near me, there is

dancing.  But introduction, dispersal.  In the week

after Pulse, in Massachusetts, 450% more guns like that gun


were sold.  If you can stand to walk a narrow path through the leafless

forest, you can arrive at a circle of water that will allow your body

to be beautifully held, whoever you are.  It’s true, you’ll have to return


by the same path, go back through those apocalyptic trees.  If

I had waited a month to begin this poem, I would have begun

with the re-leafing, fuzzed red growth in late July, moth-flutter


among the trunks not angelic but like paper corners that didn’t

get burned in someone’s attempted or accidental.  Is it too late?

Now, plastered to bark, the russet humps of eggs that I scrape with a stick

—vengeful, hopeful, despairing—even as they are being laid.

—North Truro, 2016

First published in About Place

About the Author

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 many anthologies. She has been awarded a Stegner Fellowship, the Audre Lorde Prize, and was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Founder and editor-in-chief of Broadsided Press, she lives on Cape Cod, works as a naturalist locally as well as on expedition ships in the high latitudes, and teaches creative writing at Brandeis University. www.ebradfield.com.