Leah C. Stetson

Dec 30, 2011 No Comments by Sea Stories

The Secret Life of Bin, “Lost at Sea”

Sluggish cargo ships, predators of snails,
Haul and shed their containers, lost at sea,
Submersible Bin banged-on lose nails
Tumbling like a wheelchair down the stairs

In a rocky ecosystem. Far above, birds of prey
Push the melting sky of bright clouds, capture
Any jumping fish, recycled cardboard of the day,
Absorb toxics and digest adhesives, bits of lure.

Bin overhears a sordid meeting: Pirates cut
Their asking price. “Every hostage must go!”
Liquidation of oil, fumy fumes and feuds gut
Dissect chemical analysis, fencing cyclones.

Waves away, floating beside finback whales that lunge
And plunge to feed their new slogan: Save the carbon sinks!
Bin tries to seine fish as if a weighted gaping cavity sponge
They just swim out again, “no tanks,” it thinks.

Tide-turned, bumped against a seamount, this flotsam
Treasure buries a robotic arm still hinged, under-utilized
With the mechanics of a spiny lobster muscled claw
Pent-up lashings Captain Hook never fantasized.

In the darkness, a tiger shark (tagged for monitoring)
Investigates Bin, takes a bite outta him, loses interest,
What a nightmare. Dreams of Atlantis, ancient things,
Contents absorbed by the power of tsunamis, hints
Left deep in the marshlands on the coast of Spain.

Water seeps into the wound, enough to tip, dip and gulp
Bin won’t wash up ashore, oh no, sinking evermore,
To the sea floor, a shifty edge, a sanctuary of writhing kelp
Sadly a different story, if Bottle had written home

This note: “Made it safely but Bin’s adrift.
Send a boat.”

Mer Girls

I grew up on a tiny island,
Where I played with mermaid dolls
I called Sandy and Shell—
We wore seaweed necklaces,
Sucked on saltgrass
And sunned ourselves,
Swirling in a hot, black inner tube
That insulated me from the shock
Of the incoming tide,
Which numbed my feet so I forgot
About my jellies, even as mud
Squirted out the sides
With each step submerged
Treading & letting the rockweed
Collect at my waist,
A briny petticoat with many
Pairs of hidden legs.

Salt flaked off my skin
As though I shed scales
When I emerged from my swim,
I carried one mermaid ashore
But lost Sandy, blonde with green fins,
Who I never saw again—
How I looked for her evermore
And dreamt she drifted
Off to sleep in some briny bed
Way out over my head, out deep.

Strange Girl of Tides, a Siren’s Song

In his dreams he goes exploring and his mind travels back
Searches for a smaller world, ‘cross bridges and railroad tracks
He finds a tiny island in a harbor he once knew well
Always autumn, a golden-glow, the same salty smell.

If he were an island, he’d wear rocks and a breeze;
Strewn with the fates of other men, broken shells,
Bits of glass worn and green, silted wounds on his knees.
Peer into his tidal pools, a mirror of destiny deep down
Where to hide, not for long, out with moons and rogue swells
Trees hundred rings round with sirens in their crown.

Edges eroded by saltwater and time
He patched and repaired, falling pebbles
A blurred and benign disappearing line
Lost his boundaries, brick and rubble.

Suddenly a strange girl, dirty blonde and summer,
Slipped through the eel grass; he sat down to watch her
She perched upon a rock to dry off, wet long hair made darker.
Up close, not a girl, mud-caked thighs, uneven scales that marked her.
If he were an island, this angel of tides might be his avenger.

Regret reaches, a seamount, under his skin
Invisible between the crests of waves,
An extinct volcano, no risk of eruption.
No lava, no lover, nothing to save.
He shrugs it off, crumbles and caves.

If he were an island, he’d wear rocks and a breeze;
Strewn with the fates of better men, broken pots and shells,
Bits of glass worn and green, silted wounds on his knees.
Oh, swim against the current, beneath the trestle, he longs
To tread water, not slip out with moons and rogue swells
Haunted by the sirens in the trees and lured by their songs.

In his waking hours, he walks along the shore
Never to that island, not a bridge anymore.
But in his dreams, he takes the railing, body rigid
He leans over… won’t dive into that cold harbor.
Live to find, his angel of tides, that island girl
His avenger, she’ll patch the pebbles, draw the lines.

Every man is an island, looking for the lines.
Will she avenge him, this strange girl of tides?

Edge of the Dump

I drove to the transfer station,
With plastic shopping bags in the back seat,
Rinsed tuna cans and milk gallons,
Trash that reeked of seafood shells & entrails,
The nasty parts we didn’t eat.

As I recycled my containers–
*Clank, clankety-clink*
I noticed a familiar cover:
Rachel Carson’s classic on the brink
Of being tossed over!

There, at the edge of the dump, I salvaged
A 1955 paperback 8th edition in good condition
The Edge of the Sea, to which I pay homage,
For it is a most poetic and practical guide
And the reason that I could finally fathom

Ecology, long after I’d
Nearly drowned in my course text
While my professor denied
All my attempts to make sense.

So I turned, as though with the tide,
To my idol marine ecologist and writer
On principles and periwinkles,
Salt marsh laws and ooh, the water!

The pages of my own copy were tagged & crinkled,
Marked where I wanted to refer
To her words and to reflect—
Writing my term paper,
All too circumspect,
Braced for the inevitable scoff,
“In all its varied manifestations,”
The grade, for one, I thought, was off
But I am known for exasperations
And swam away from a twitching prof.

I navigated through the dump’s gates,
Like a series of locks in a canal.
Back on the main road, I felt a change in weight
A solid decision to liquidate
My assets, to quit my typing job—I shall!

So that I have more time to write
And teach part-time at the Oceanarium.
I love to see micro-organisms come to light,
Revealed in ripples of moon glow, a microcosm
Phosphorescent in the dark of night.

Finding Carson’s book at the edge
Of the dump was like this, incandescent,
A revelation, a hotspot, a ledge
Insisting that I save myself,
Find a tide pool that cools the mind

And dive into it.


Leah C. Stetson is a poet, writer, editor and human ecologist from the coast of Maine. Leah holds a master’s degree from College of the Atlantic. She writes about wetlands for a nonprofit organization. Her poetry has appeared in New Maine Times, Off the Coast, Wicked Alice, Red Ochre Lit, Words & Images, Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal, Wolf Moon Press Journal, Not Just Air, LILA: Literature of Los Angeles and COA Magazine.  A spiritual mermaid, she has blogged about sharks in wetlands, among other marine topics in her “Strange Wetlands” blog at http://aswm.org/wordpress/

Hibernal 2012, Littoral Currents

About the Editors

Casey R. Schulke grew up along the Kuskokwim River in a rural Athabascan village in Alaska fishing for king salmon and mushing her sled dog team. She now resides on the shores of Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. Casey's a poet, a naturalist, a dog-lover, has two birds, and is married to a wonderful man.
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