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 ReviewSouthern Humanities ReviewHarvard ReviewBoston Review, and The Iowa Review, and her essays about poetry appear in LARBBoston 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.