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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.

Cervine Quick Current by Carl Schlachte

OBJECTDeer

BODY OF WATER: New York Harbor

 

Taking into account the curvature of the earth, struggling to stand, they came here first from

          transitional areas between forests and thickets,

 

From the river three of them climb early October banks in the shadow of the bridge.

 

Call it what you will, if you favor escape or panicked burst because the terms vary with dialect

          that looms over the horizon, can be seen and spans for miles, can’t ignore that one was

          bound

 

To find their way here, as if summoned to be seen as a noble creature. They appeared, to be used

          as flattering simile or metaphor when in comparison to a famous warrior, hero or chief,

          who by comparison will take on their qualities—but bound

 

This prisoner is who we are now, flattering its area with candor but caring not for this, scared and

          appeared and uninterested in working as a symbol for humans who can’t suggest

          otherwise our regret.


Carl Schlachte is yet another poet living in Brooklyn. He is an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Brooklyn Review, 1913: A Journal of Forms, and The West Wind Review.