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Alaska Quarterly Review

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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.

Elizabeth Bradfield


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) 
   dissolve to.

Italian has a better word: liquescere. To

become liquid.

    Liquiscere. Liquiscere.

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 
   liquid palpable
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 . . .

              dissolve             dwindle 
  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 
                                some fungi

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 
   I'm able
to resist it, to bend. I try to remember how I flew

weightless in an ocean of womb.

                        liquescere, liquiscere
                                 and also 
           liquifare. To melt. Amore 

           afternoons in bed, light filtered through the 

                             we manage to drift 
                       beyond singularity

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


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Autumn's first freeze, Anchorage, Alaska.

© 2013 Clark James Mishler

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Page Updated: 9/24/13  By:  Jeanette Bartz