And how they angle their bodies over water
with tensile intention, masters of hover
and swoop, dart and splay.
Technique in these storm-petrels at the level
of instinct which, watching from shore, we
might mistake as pleasure,
claiming each elegant instance of nature
as something ultimately about ourselves,
not a good meal’s necessary
murder, the calculus of want that drives
a beak’s precision. In the foreshortened
days before solstice,
the business of sleep hardly put away before
we are, at midday, craving it again: a retreat
into warmth from the low
dark that comes over cape houses and marsh
in the startling cold of matchstick December
and the shirred mirror
of a half-frozen salt bay. We sat in a warm
car, watching the last hour of light ravish
then subtract itself from
the winded tapestry of reeds, the slick backs
of the feeding petrels. We admit to envy
of their honed vision,
their eyes’ detection of the flicker of fin,
as known to them as a mate’s plumage.
How have we arrived
at early mid-life to find desires opaque,
or dimmed to a decibel beyond hearing?
In the scripts that fell,
hidden mantles, on the children we once
were, in early grief of knowing we were
wrong, from the start,
unable to trust in the unseen; or to see without
seeing to the point of pain; to bear, willingly,
the brunt of family
ambition and name into regard if not renown.
To fear, even then, the ostracon of tribal shun
and to have shaped
a twinned existence, giving to Caesar in accord
with his remand, while hiding a spare and shiny
penny, bright as a bird’s
eye, as our own. The petrels’ theater is governed
by nature: they act in concert with belly and bone.
They are not otherwise,
abroad or at home, they do not shirk from violence
in algorithmic continuance. Their songs’ necessity
a midwinter music.
Heather Treseler’s Parturition (2020) won the Munster Literature Centre’s international chapbook prize, and her sequence “The Lucie Odes” received Missouri Review‘s Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize (2019). Her poems appear (or are forthcoming) in Cincinnati Review, PN Review, Southern Humanities Review, Harvard Review, Boston Review, and The Iowa Review, and her essays about poetry appear in LARB, Boston Review, and in six books about American poetry. She is associate professor of English and the Presidential Fellow for Art, Education, and Community at Worcester State University and a Visiting Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Center.