William Bradford, Elder

by Suzanne Batty

(From Landing, Plymouth Rock

They say her eyes were defiant, as though she willed it;
saw ten rosy crabs on the ocean floor and, yes,
wanted to be there, weaving little boxes out of seaweed,
naked and hairless, a girl-shaped gap in the water. 

She cannot tell me a thing, her teeth rigid, her lips
white as cuttlefish. I close her mouth gently with a bruised
sponge, lift her head, heavy as a tomb boulder, comb wet spasms
from her hair. When her shadow tipped over, when her dress
filled up with sullen waves, who, with their life,
should have saved her?

Once, I followed her muddy tracks to the meadow,
a flock of hens flew against my legs in bursts. It was summer
too early, the bluebells shocked. I came across her
sitting in the shimmering grass, covered in daisies. Sparrows
were fluttering at the back of her neck. She let me lie on her then,
clothed and desperate, my hands tied behind me like a robber.

Now, I am looking at an imaginary fish a boy has brought me –
it is the shape of a half-closed eye, its scales have just stopped clacking.
Christ, this is when you are needed; when a fractured moon falls
between dune and sky, I have a drowned wife, men with green wounds,
not an ear of wheat anywhere.