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.

Torch Song: Shipworm by Allyson Paty and Danniel Schoonebeek

OBJECT: Teredos and Gribbles

BODY OF WATER: Hudson River

Was a time what I took from you
I took into myself. My mouth
full of wood. Full of your bulk.
Now when I move, I remove you.
Nothing happens in which I don’t.

Where do I stand now the jetty
has buckled? Have heart, take after
the water. How it breaks against
itself and won’t wear out. Even this
scrap of wood—Taste. Just salt.

Allyson Paty was raised in New York City, where she continues to live. Her poems have appeared in Tin House and the text journal A Similar But Different Quality. She can be reached at: allyson.paty (at) gmail (dot) com.

Danniel Schoonebeek will be featured as the new voice in poetry in the Fall 2010 issue of Tin House. His essays and reviews have appeared in Publisher’s WeeklyTin House, and American Poet. He lives in Brooklyn and can be reached at danniel.schoonebeek (at) gmail (dot) com.

Torch Songs is a series of diptych poems on which Allyson Paty and Danniel Schoonebeek collaborate. There are many. For more information, please contact either poet.