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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.

Bones of Bucephalus by Joe Fritsch

OBJECTHorse Bones

BODY OF WATERDead Horse Bay

 

"Of all the sights a horse-rending plant offers to the world, a horse is not one"

                                                                                                                                                -Plutarch 

 there on the lip,

                                                of the cthonian ocean of long bones

how could I have known what a horse was

      before it ever rode forth in chopped waves,

                it stepped   it charged

         —before it ever foaled in a barn—

     placental wetness with the mud of its birth

                          marred a mare

                                                     a body endures so much

                                               and rots like a neigh in a field

                                                        the earth will have us each

                                                       wave gallops flankwide inland,

                                                       a shadow horse of Belowland

                                                       attributing its bones to the coast.

      I try to see the past in you,  

Stoneportal, broken coffin bone, admit me

before you were snapbacked and scalded bald

Were you the tumorous steed of a freak?

   The foaming mouth of a draft horse? 

                   Coachcarry?

Are you the legs of a veteran?

   Are you a war hero?                       Is a wave a herd?

                                                                         What brief identity the flesh provides,

                                                                                     what scant shelter is a hide!   

                                                                             when the world flips over and uncovers us

                     


Joe Fritsch studied poetry at Brooklyn College. Currently, he is the Program Assistant at Poets House, in NYC. His work has appeared online at Indigestmag.com, and in publications by Uphook Press. He lives in Brooklyn.