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Elizabeth Bradfield

Jul 13, 2022

Already, you don’t know

what has passed, or when, precisely, it started.

The sky has been shifting

into something red

for over an hour, and you’ve been blinking,

taking a sip from a glass, turning

a page of your book,


The moment is close. The light is condensing

into a smear of orange along the horizon,

and then

something happens—bee trapped

inside the window, crash from the kitchen—

and you’ve missed it.

When I was small, my father once had me race up

a long flight of unsteady, wooden stairs

yelling run at my heels. Go.

Faster, or you’ll miss it.

And at the top of the stairs, we

watched it again, the sunset.

And that changed everything.

He was thinking of math, the earth’s curvature and

the great trick of altitude. He was thinking

that he’d like to see again

the sun slip into that particular evening’s end.

And why shouldn’t he?

Pointing off across the bay, out of breath,

he lifted me to stand on the shaky rail

where I swayed above a steep fall

of blackberries, bees humming around the fruit as if

they were in orbit around dark, clustered suns,

thinking the sun couldn’t know

what we’d just gotten away with.

I knew it wasn’t magic, that time can’t be fooled. My legs burned

from the run. I knew it was just quickness. Light.

The relative pace of things. Our willingness

to find ourselves out of breath above a humming decline

of pollen. The sunset

twice in one night, leading me

to all this longing.


This was republished without edits and with permission from Interpretive Work by Elizabeth Bradfield (2008, Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press.)


Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of five collections, most recently Toward Antarctica and Theorem, a collaboration with artist Antonia Contro. She has co-edited the anthologies Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration and Cascadia: A Field Guide Through Art, Ecology and Poetry (forthcoming 2023). Her work has been appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, and her honors include the Audre Lorde Prize and a Stegner Fellowship. Founder of Broadsided Press (, Liz works as a naturalist/guide and teaches creative writing at Brandeis University.

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