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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.

On the Run by Leah Umansky

OBJECTSilicone Breasts

BODY OF WATERConey Island

 

They were part of something larger and escaped. They somehow made it down the Belt and down the main drag of Surf Avenue.  Lefty wanted in on the action; Righty wanted to run and hide.  Unarmed, and trying to communicate, they went eastward into the Land of Dreams. Passing  Steeplechase, and The Wonder Wheel, Lefty said to Righty, “ I want thrill.”  Then, Righty said to Lefty, “but we’re on the run and I miss her voice and her lips.”

In the beached, they gurgled in the sea-mist and thought about the world as a place.  They  wanted to challenge  the encased. They felt quirked and swayed and associative:  If sea   then waves. If sun-licked   then frothed.   If adrift   then swallowed.

They thought of God in this steepled place among The Clowned, The Sidewinders and The Freaks. Righty felt speechless under their umbrella’s shade, but gained strength in his gestures, “Look, I’m going to say something wrong now, She is getting between us.”  (Lefty felt it, too).  “I’m telling you, a way to say it is to look in the holes.”

So they rolled onto their rounder sides and peered into the mollusk holes in the sand.  Righty pushed Lefty and Lefty flung himself  into the sea. He never looked back, just forward, into the deep.

Righty saw him doing the Back Stroke. Saw his gossamer dip and swirl. Then, saw him befriending the Kelp and thought well, HMPH!  There are ways to control this banditry, thought Righty.  I will germinate here, on this lip of shore. I will call out to the nested, and find my way back to the Road.

It grew hot.   Righty felt he needed to reframe the situation. He booked a room at the motel. Ate a hot dog and sauerkraut. After all,  he thought,

                                                                                                the world is my oyster. 

  

 


Leah Umansky is a New Yorker by birth, a teacher by choice, and an anglophile at heart. She received her BA in English/Creative Writing from SUNY Binghamton, her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and is a recipient of a 1-week fellowship at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. She has been a contributing writer for BOMB Magazine’s BOMBLOG, a poetry reviewer for The Rumpus and a guest blogger for The  Best American Poetry Blog. Her poem, “Chess” won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize from the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. Her poems have appeared in: Barrow Street, Women’s Studies QuarterlyPing-Pong, Catch-up and Cream City Review among others. Her first book of poetry, Domestic Uncertainties, was recently published by BlazeVox. She is also the Host/Curator of COUPLET: a poetry and music series (http://coupletreadingseries.tumblr.com). Read more at her blog: http://iammyownheroine.com.