Elizabeth Bradfield

The Third Reich Claims Neu Schwabenland — 1939



Ice is not land, so how to claim it?  How to mark it owned

            without thatched roofs, artifacts from conquered tribes, quaint

                        yeomen tilling non-native crops on the annexed shore?

The planes Passat and Boreas were catapulted

            from the chill deck of the Schwabenland

                        into the frigid, uncharted air

to fly across the ice (one-fifth

            of the continent) and photograph it (11,000 pictures),

                        to drop their aluminum darts

tattooed with a crooked cross

            every twenty miles into what they saw

                        as if they could fix it, as if

they could pin it fast

            and point to it as theirs       

                        here        here

anchorages rich with whale oil,

            space on the map of the world

                        now called Neu Schwabenland.




On the shelf: skull of a fox, abalone shell,

            bundle of porcupine quills—my mnemonics

                        of travel, of what I have discovered.

I buy star BD^-03^5750 online

            and name it Incognita. There’s a certificate

                        that comes in the mail, a mythology, a map.

Is this dog mine?  She has begun,

            some nights, to growl, low and defiant,

                        when I move her from the couch, hers.

If my lover leaves me, what will become

            of our photographs and stories,

                        who will keep the dog?

I claim the lips of Barb Burzynski

            that night in the woods on Vashon before

                        I knew that she was married.




Ice is not land.  Is restless.  And what was claimed

            has moved, is inching toward sea,

                        has maybe broken off,

calved from the frozen edge, and now trails

            its dust and shit and egg shards and abandoned fuel tins,

                        trails what stories it held

through the ocean’s haloclines

            and thermoclines, its pelagic and benthic layers,

                        scattering them across its sea floor.

Maybe by now one of the marked aluminum darts

            tall as an emperor penguin and

                        dropped      dropped      dropped

let loose in calculated transects then

            stumbled over, perched on, nested under, scoured

                        by wind, maybe scoured of its markings,

thin and pocked, maybe it is settling

            beneath miles of water, is crumpling,

                        declarative not of claim, but of time.



“The Third Reich Claims Neu Schwabenland — 1939” first appeared in Field, Fall 2004, No. 71.