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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.

Formica Dinette by Taylor Bond

OBJECT: Formica Dinette

BODY OF WATER: East River

 

Grandpa taught me how to fish between Fourteenth and Broadway

salt-split line cast towards cement seas, sun-licked, froth spun

tide breaking upon the backs of the sleepless city.

 

The tips of the Empire State Building scraped

the soles of my feet as I swam in the Atlantic

metal spilling salt to the Sound, gliding

above Bowery and boroughs alike.

 

High tide snuck beneath the subway,

lifted it whole off the tracks,

careened it through currents like a toy train

tugged by kelp and seaweed.

 

Wait to see what bites, he said,

luring pelagic people

with dreams and nets of steel

and I could see

this was a city of air

above water, roots drilled deep

 

I became a disciple like him

devout to green and blue passages

and the ocean of New York City.

 

We watched as the water became a home

to upright dining chairs and dinner plates

life set to be lived on the rivers of 16th street,

and still we fished.

 


Taylor Bond is a 2014-2015 Lannan Fellow, a writer for FireBack Records, and a freelance photographer. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Anthem, Spilled Ink, Behind The Counter, Wimapog, and The Camel Saloon. Her latest focus is combining digital media with poetry to enhance the narrative experience.