Elizabeth Bradfield

WYSSA: Antarctica, 1961

Compressed for Morse, compressed to better the odds
this first, flimsy signal might send sense across ocean
unbroken, I type just WYSSA, which you know means
All my love darling in this telegraph of foreseen
longing. In further news, YIHKE—I have grown
a beard which is generally admired
and with it
will tease the soft hollow between your hip bones
as you lie in the green field beyond our gate or,
if you dislike the beard, I will lay my head in your lap
and let you cut it from me, cut away my months gone
and burn them, acrid and bitter. WUYGT—elephant seals
are breeding
, and although their heaving is nothing like
our shadows against cabbage-rose wallpaper, I am
aroused. They are the only flesh here, and they slap
against each other with unrelenting fervor. YOGIP—
please send details of bank account. Do you have
enough? Has my time here at least fattened something?
Can I afford to say WYSSA again? YAYIR—fine snow
has penetrated through small crevices in the buildings
I am cold. And although we decided this code
with your breath still against my neck, your heat
anything but distant, believe that my heart’s capacity
has, if anything, expanded in this chill. YONOY—
from now on, all I hammer against the sounding metal
of this small machine is WYSSA. All of it.

Elizabeth Bradfield
“WYSSA: Antarctica, 1961” first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, May 2005.