Sea Town

photos and text by Brett Klein

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SEA TOWN

This is a salt steep-cobbled town
where every morning the men go down
to breathe the sun-wet sea

where maples shadow the sloping street
and the dawn-cool reek of fog is sweet
in the dooryard chestnut tree.

This is the place where fishermen
stride down to silver wharves again,
to the creak of the waiting hulls

where a lifting leeward wind comes through
and a shaking sail with a patch or two
is followed by flashing gulls.

This is a small brine-weathered town
where the houses lean to winds gone down
the other side of the world,

where chimney smoke floats blue to gray,
piling that creaks with ended day
while the snagging ropes are hurled.

This is the place where fishermen
stride up the cobbled hill again
and scan the faint-starred skies,

where doors stand open to lilac-shine
and supper-drift blows warm and fine
and windows have seaward eyes.

-Frances Frost

 

Frances Frost (August 3, 1905 St. Albans, Vermont – February 11, 1959 New York City) was an American poet and novelist. She was remembered in St. Albans as being “the first girl in town to smoke cigarettes.”

Native Mainer and photographer Brett Klein has lived the past 12 years begrudgingly in Connecticut before returning home to Portland in July 2015. He last checked in with a visit to Orr’s and Bailey Islands back in June and decided to revisit the area on a recent snowy January weekend.

He’s had a single line from the above poem stuck in his head for a decade, not knowing its source, and after his recent trip to the islands was finally able to trace its origin to Frances Frost’s poem “Sea Town”, printed in the September 5, 1941 edition of the Times Herald in Olean, New York. It was attributed to Frost, and noted as previously published in the New York Times. After not being able to track it down in the NYT archives and seeing a different Frost poem also titled Sea Town published in The New Yorker’s May 9, 1936 edition, the mystery of its true origin continues.

See more of Brett’s work on his website, blog or instagram.