Published on Academy of American Poets (


for Arctic Explorer Donald B. MacMillan
Provincetown, September

All summer, town kids pose at the edge
of the pier named after you

and leap. I’ve just flown home from Baffin,
Mac. A month of spotting polar bears,

lecturing on tundra as raw wind shrugged us off,
then winter chased us down the coast.

But it’s still season here, and so I’m at the gangway
loading a boat to look for whales. 

Boys dash between pickups. Girls strut
the edge, do the same. No one throws coins for them,

but I know you jumped for the bright glint
tourists threw, and (I’m sure) for the thrill

of being watched do it. These kids leap
to break the hot September days and because tonight

they might find themselves midair, recorded
by some out-of-towner’s gadget and posted online

for view-count and comment, their currency. Would I
have strutted, have jumped at their age, yours then? I can’t decide.

At high tide, their knees are eye level from my place
on the finger pier. One girl wears a silver bikini. 

It shines like ice on the horizon. I can’t help but stare.
Suddenly, I see it is desire

that links us, that galvanizes
the thin substance of our ambitions.


Copyright © 2016 by Elizabeth Bradfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 3, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Donald B. MacMillan was born in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1874. He ended up dedicating his life to the study of the North (Arctic Canada and Greenland in particular). The first to bring color and motion film to the Arctic, MacMillan traveled in a period of rapid technological change. Because of all this, he fascinates me, and I find myself thinking often of the parallels of our lives and, maybe more importantly, the differences between them—gender and sexuality and historic moment. My investigation is building slowly...”
—Elizabeth Bradfield


Elizabeth Bradfield

Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of Once Removed (Persea Books, 2015), Approaching Ice (Persea Books, 2010), and Interpretive Work (Arktoi Books, 2008).

Date Published: 2016-06-03

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