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Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

Ode to Far Rockaway by Nicole Cirino

OBJECT: Hurricane Sandy

BODY OF WATER: The Rockaways

 

It seems they don't look at the ocean here,

have maybe gotten used to the smell of brine 

as it wafts over gasoline and fried things

and the rumble of the shuttle,

the tired meandering of silver

against the blue of the sky,

of the sea.

 

That sea that rushed

past the dunes, over planks

of split wood, into the streets,

into their homes, their tv's short-circuiting,

seeping up through floor boards

and into closets and beds.

 

It sat, that water, for days,

for months, warped wood

and left walls ashy with salt,

everything a little bit white,

everything a little bit green, 

and then black, as the mold

moved in and grew over

all the things bought or given,

and then left on the side of the road

to be hauled away with the trash.


Nicole Cirino is a New York native, a Brooklyn resident, and an educator. Her varied background in Sociology, Writing, and Child Development informs her current work as a preschool math coach for a research project aimed at improving the lives of children living in poverty in New York City. She is an alumna of Sarah Lawrence College and is honored to share a piece inspired by Hurricane Sandy on its one year anniversary.