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.



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