Heather Treseler


Whatever is the opposite of keening, that is the sound

the waves make, trawling themselves across the long

shallow shore in Ogunquit, Maine: home, in another

century, to fishermen who built a tidewater basin,

furrowing the soft marshland, digging a channel

to give safe harbor to boats named “Susan Bee,”

“Clementine,” and “Anna Mae.” In time, shucking

shacks and sturdy docks sprung up in Perkins Cove,

with a drawbridge and coils of hemp rope weathered

like hands scored by clam knives and raw mornings

that redden the nose faster than whiskey or a woman

in heat. Fishermen, you imagine, lived by tides,

their ancient faces buffeted like driftwood cast

on the beach by the last spasm of storm.


Painters arrived later, drawn by the ubiquity of light,

the changeling shore, these clapboard houses jutting

like defiant chins from the bluffs, each built like

an axiom from Emerson: self-trust; innate spark;

nature’s mirror of soul; each man a forgivable god.

Here, against the ocean’s sotto voce, a gravelly drawl

like the history of smokes in a lounge singer’s voice

urgent in its surges, slow in the pleasure of its retreat.

Here, overlooking a saltwater strand as if it were your

birth canal, the history of your angst and wailed arrival.

Here, alongside white sand and dark wet rocks that cover

it, lovingly, lending land some provisional protection:

solidity against the inquest of water, which is a version

of time, and warmth, though it be from stones.


Here, in a cliff-side cottage, you discover your lover’s

unfathomably delicate ear, curved softly as a conch shell,

and the hewn channel of his pelvic girdle, its melding

of smooth muscle and bone almost feminine in its line,

though it hinges a man in his centaur existence half

above, half below a navel that buttoned him, once,

to the first woman to offer him hospitality, the care

of her body. That day, you found little to say, little

to squander in speech. For the first time, when you fell

back, sated, you didn’t need to ask what he was thinking,

you didn’t ransack the shelves for some abiding crumb

to feed a lingering hunger; you had, for once, satisfied

what took you past girlhood’s parish and garden gate,

granting exile permission and village, citizen and state.




“Shorelines” first appeared in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Volume III, 2018.