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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.

The Art of Hurricanes by Lissa Kiernan

OBJECT/BODY OF WATER: Hurricane Sandy

lost-linden-tree.jpg

All hurricanes are cubist: something seeing, something being
seen. A Picasso eye, splitting the world apart.

The failure was fertile: water gushing into concrete
wombs, water gushing into war zones, water

gushing—  The grieving mother refused a coat,
wanting to be as cold as her son, holding herself

together with only dressmakers’ pins.  Sodden,
we slogged into complex fog. When we could not

gain egress, we got stuck in Fibonacci loops—
hung the image of the gurgling brook

by the spray of birch and the spume of skunk grass.
Oyster Creek is on alert, the radio strummed.

We were awkward with neighbors who wielded chain saws
with kindness.  It’s nothing, they said, when we tried

pushing money into their hands. You played me
more cunningly, Sandy, than almost any other

collapse— funneling my breath, lashing me to your mast.
Protean, the rhyme between intake and exhalation,

between oil slick and scarred linden, as you go now,
in search of new patrons.  Almost a human figure already.


Lissa’s work can be found in the journals Albatross, Sow’s Ear Poetry Journal, andTerrain.org, among others. She is the artistic director of The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, a provider of online workshops. A poet, essayist and critic, she holds an MFA from Stonecoast and an MA from The New School.