In addition to publication in Alaska Quarterly Review, DELIQUESCENCE: A MEDITATION IN SEVEN PARTS is a video/poem collaboration between Elizabeth Bradfield and Demet Taspinar. View the video collaboration on the Alaska Quarterly Review YouTube Channel.
DELIQUESCENCE: A MEDITATION IN SEVEN PARTS
I. Verb: To melt away or disappear as if by melting
How many hours have I stood before water
attempting this? And when did the urge begin?
I can feel concrete beneath my feet, wooden rail under
wind, blackberries scenting up the steep, clay bank
that the stairs followed down
in a suspended, wobbled reach to the beach. Always
a gull hovering at eye level, at rest in wind. Was I five?
Five, nine, sixteen, I stood and stared at the bay,
at water, at what I might (oh, soft persistent hope)
Italian has a better word: liquescere. To
The world whispered, whispers to me.
II. Chemistry: Become liquid by absorbing moisture
from the air
Dawn on the bow. Or some hour early enough to be,
for at least a while,
alone. Firm horizon denied by mist. Prow rocking
into swell (forward, only forward, it seems). The air's
in silence. Horizon of skin blurred. The body's liquid not
separate. Pulsing, held, selfless.
We are, by vast percentage, sea.
The eye can stand to be open only through tears. We
wetly. Salt wet sea. A bit of spray and I taste it. Ocean.
There is no voice, no other to ask or exclaim and so
this delicate experiment that, to survive, I run.
Sky becomes water, water, sky. And I . . .
disband disperse dissipate
become delinquent to the self
III. Liquidare, Italian. To liquidate. To get rid of.
Yes, says the tide edge. Yes the spindrift,
the mare's tail, the nimbus, the veil cloud's velum
upon which nothing can be written.
Yes, ice slurries from a glacier.
Yes, ice brash and rafted, driven by wind.
Willing to dissolve, despite the fact that it
could not resist.
IV. Origin: From the Latin "dissolve," mid 18th
Enlightenment, what you've given us.
The unweighting of ideas, architecture,
science itself freed to reach beyond
earth's edge, peer beneath the ocean's lens:
Halley's diving bell lowered, a man
as its clapper (church of sea),
breathing not with but at least beside
fish, squid, barnacle, scallop.
And the sky, too, breached. Stars
seen not as a dome's flaws
but tidal, drifting heat.
I never wanted to become the night sky,
to disappear into that height. The heavens
are a poor attempt of sea.
They whisper nothing, just burn
in silence. At night the sea
has much to say to itself, to us.
It has its own stars. To be within
them, body a shadow in phosphor,
is at once closer and further from my goal
than anything. I am nearly . . . I am not.
deliquesce, hisses a wave to the sand
deliquesce, deliquesce, deliquesce
V. Biology: To branch into many fine divisions, as leaf
Tide flows in, floods into all narrowings, all ends and
What can float is lifted. What can't be lifted
is covered. Surface glint hides
resistance in sky.
VI. Botany: To become fluid or soft on maturing, as
Do we become softer with age, or more brittle? Lunar
and solar habit each have their pull by which
the tides of self are governed. It
is harder and harder to leave the stiff forest of I, I, I
a life cultivates. The trunks of self
thicken, saplings rise, ready to replace
whatever falls. The wafted drift of meadow
in which I began has been supplanted. But wind
moves through. Rain slides every leaf. I try
to remind myself, thick and stolid as I feel, much as
to resist it, to bend. I try to remember how I flew
weightless in an ocean of womb.
liquifare. To melt. Amore
afternoons in bed, light filtered through the
we manage to drift
VII. Deliquescence: The liquid resulting from the
process of deliquescing
This water. This water. This
cloud light liquid shiftless resistance this
rendering of all we might become.
Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of the poetry
collections Approaching Ice (Persea, 2010) and
Interpretive Work (Arktoi Books/ Red Hen Press,
2008). Her poems have appeared in The Atlantic
Monthly, Poetry, Field, Orion, and The New Yorker.
She is a frequent contributor to Alaska Quarterly
Back To Top