Archive

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 Storm by Rachel Dix

OBJECTShipwrecks

BODY OF WATER: All Over

Thomas Chambers, Threatening Sky, Bay of New York, c. 1835-50, Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 24 1/4 inches (46 x 61.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 365-2008-5, Photo courtesy: Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Thomas Chambers, Threatening Sky, Bay of New York, c. 1835-50, Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 24 1/4 inches (46 x 61.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 365-2008-5, Photo courtesy: Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

*

A long and frigid plight across

A dark and angry sea

The Captain looked out from the bough

“A mighty storm,” said he

“A mighty storm to shake these men

A storm the sea must free.”

He placed his hands along the rail,

“A mighty storm,” said he.

*

The lookout was uneasy

For he could not find the shore

And with a deep conviction cried

“We have no place to moor!”

The men all murmured hushedly

What God forsake them for,

Though they received no answer but

The thunder’s distant roar.

*

A livid wind scaled the deck

And set the sails to rise

It bit the men with savage teeth

And stung their reddened eyes.

It rose above them, loud and clear,

With woeful, angry cries

It threw the crew from mast to rud

And churned up darkened skies.

*

The purple, bitter waves amassed

With foamy frothy ends

A man who tumbled from the stern

Was lost in wat’ry bends

The priest aboard consoled the crew

“We come when Jesus sends!

We are but lambs who ran astray

From flocks the dear Lord tends.”

*

Boom! … Crack!

“We’ve come to New York Bay!

I know these are the Narrows men,

If only one more day

Had passed before our jaunt began

We’d surely be okay.”

Their sides heaved at the irony

Their sides heaved with dismay.

*

The boards began an anguished groan

The hull began to fill

The sounds of waves and thunder

Overwhelmed the senses till

The men no longer fought it,

And instead embraced the chill

With stony faces, callused hearts,

And one united will

***

The day broke in an eerie calm

The sky was pink and blank

The shoreline was announced ahead

By the buoys’ clank

And all the remnants of the men,

Of the mighty ship that sank

Was floating on the languid sea:

A lone, and simple plank.


Rachel Dix is a sixteen-year-old sophomore at George Mason High School in Northern Virginia. She’s an aspiring actress, and very interested in the arts and humanities. She plans on going to college to major in theater or marine biology, or maybe even English. She’s been writing poetry since she was nine years old, and her poem, The Storm, is the winning entry for the Underwater New York Shipwreck Story Contest.