New Eng­land Aquar­ium

Na­ture / Can only love her­self. —W. H. Au­den, “Ox­ford”

Prairie Fire - - NICHOLAS BRADLEY -


Bears of Nazareth and Juneau, conifers

of Da­m­as­cus and Leech­town, fishes of Por­tau-Prince and Nar­ra­gansett, wolves of night

and day­break—all are filled from rump to ruff,

from tooth to lynx’s tuft, root to nee­dle, with

wasps’ buzz, pine sap, shade of the Cas­cades frog’s

dor­sal spots, the spark of heat­less ar­ti­fi­cial

suns in flick­er­ing jellies through which cur­rent

runs. Crea­tures, come: smash cym­bal and tym­pa­num,

honk ka­zoos, strike out these words, play an­i­mate

songs. Love, Na­ture can only sing her­self.


Come, call on rib­boned life be­hind crys­tal.

The brume of days upon days has lifted.

Drift­ing starfish break from black wa­ter as

sud­denly as stars spring from in­digo

skies. We will write new ele­gies as new years

ar­rive. Let us chat­ter then about our

cen­turies’ and cities’ fail­ings; let us

dis­course later of the wors­en­ing chop.

Har­pooned and drowned, those of us sprung from flame

yet cling to the view that only flame will

torch us. Where we have been is where we will

burn; where we be­came coal, we will in­hale.


Coastal gi­ant sala­man­ders re­tain

their gills. Pain noses to­ward us; a strain­ing

hol­low in­sists: You are unloved by time

and na­ture un­sat­is­fied. Two wolves ring

the buzzer; a sponge drinks our tea. Al­though

they are le­gion, the signs are il­leg­i­ble.

Our weirs and nets catch only tir­ing fish,

a puz­zle of spar­rows, a scare of grack­les,

a bun­dle of kites, a ket­tle of crows,

and not the light, the mag­netic north,

we need and know we need in our dire south.

Love, Na­ture can only save her­self.


Lit jel­ly­fish float in a dark glass tristesse.

Timed jets flush anemones next door with

oxy­gen. Past the crush roosts the am­ple

gift shop ruled by stuffed em­per­ors; har­bour

seals wait for den­tal in­spec­tion; and sunglare

de­scends, my beloved, the cav­ing steps

of the Aquar­ium stop on the T.

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