A lover’s sleeping body is a fallow field

leading to forest understory, saplings

and shrubberies too plentiful to count,

and to caves of salt, a mine that is yours

—that I should like to visit, dispossess.


A lover’s unguarded breath as a series of

undulations, waves with slight variation,

a gull dipping south as the water crests

and small silver fish fall forward, bright

coins in a fountain, by the flashing beak.


I trace your long exhale, flattening against

the palm of beach. Nightly, I track you

into the sea of sleep, what would cradle us

among sponge and anemone, stone made

sand then stone again, fixity made to pour—


My lover, my strange familiar, my heimliche,

my wayworn desire. Some nights, we lay

placid with day’s exhaustion. Others, we

swim urged by sea’s hunt for inlet, island,

harbor. I study your eyes, tides’ temptations.


I have charted the distant orb that governs

the temperament of ocean, the rowdiness

of woodland mammals. I study the event

that is the wind. Mornings, we track prints

in softened earth, collect the salted wood.


We met off the highway of straight-forward intention, having traveled

the long way around. Among remnants and revenants of pine shilling

New England, we found the old kettle pond and hut of the celebrated

hermit whose retreat began in a refusal to flog schoolchildren; a brother’s

sudden death from lock-jaw; tedious industry in the family pencil factory.

                        All that whittling. Something wanted

                        beside violence and manufacturing.

                        Something instead of the bread of grief.

Whatever brought us to Yankee woods (its echo of musket shot in the

pocked hickory, birch, sycamore), might shelter us or send us off again.

Some say Thoreau’s solitude was indifference to women. Others note

his hermitage was peopled with friends. Shyly, we size each other up

in the blinding vernal sun Swedes blame for the rash of spring suicides.

                        Hail of brightness that breaks through

                        roofs and root cellars, thawing what we

                        froze under, what slept with opened eye.

Death by Water: Margaret Fuller


When lungs release their last pocket

     of air, the body, in dumb reflex,

opens the valve of the mouth, letting

     water flood its brachial trees,

dependent on land for sun and oxygen.

     Feral, the absolute wish to breathe,

and the animal distress that is a body,

     drowning. When flailing limbs

ebb to a stop, when a chest-horse ceases

     in its demand, its hooves kicking

at the stall door to be let out, leased to air

     beneath a starred or sun-pocked sky,

a broad horizon wide as the ocean, wide

     as the gaze in a god’s everywhere face.


She refused the captain’s offer to trawl

     her from the wrecked ship, caught

on shoals in view of Fire Island. Refused

     to leave Giovanni and their two

year old, Nino, huddled in the splintered

     forecastle. Had one rescued sailor

or shoreline pirate dared the surf in a skiff

     with oars, had one man been moved

beyond fear. Or had women been allowed

     to learn to swim the waters of trade,

Puritan capital, and refined reflection:

     cold Atlantic that Yankees praise

with brackish pride. Had a grown woman

     any say in the laws of this land.


Meeting Wordsworth, Mazzini, George

     Sand, she could forget men whose

passional friendship bloomed into nothing

     more; her loneness at thirty-seven,

the failure of Black suffrage, Polk’s needless

     war. Europe a theater of possibility—

and a lithe Roman who guided her home.

     Since virtue can’t live but in a vital

body, because of his beauty and storied eyes,

     she took him as her ardent lover while

revolution razed the city. If war could not

     part them, what then of water?

A rising surf bore down upon the wreck,

     death met in a liturgy of waves.


Back home, the smell of your skin resined

   on mine, sweet and musky as geosmin, ozone, petrichor—

                            faint incense of rain, and three magi of its arrival:

                                           scents we have evolved to track,

pulling down the tent, rounding up saddles and fire, hunting

            with animal need.


For want of you, I disassemble what I have called home, fleeing

   a season of bewilderment

and having seen, by jagged light,

                         my nakedness, our plight, slow devastation of drought,

            plant life refusing germination, hiding juice in sullen roots,

                                holding memories of rain in archives of seed.


I had stopped counting winters. Stopped gauging thirst or hunger.

   Ceased to feel skin’s thinned paper; anxious limbs; thirst

            its own cavity, a deep well of unslaken—


You are not a mirage in an old Western, an isle of green

   in desiccated desert. You are not the Christological cactus.

            You do not ride a horse or hobby-horse, parading manliness.

But long and cool, like gin on ice, this permission to need,

          to covet the salve of another’s skin, to hanker

          after wild scent as it’s released

   from the resin of rock—

You offered me your mouth,    

   and I could barely stop for air.

Heather Treseler
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