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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.

Glass City vs. Bottle Beach by Julia LoFaso

OBJECTS: Bottles, Horse Bones

BODY OF WATER: Dead Horse Bay

 

I once went to a New Year’s Eve party whose host, a burlesque dancer, handed each guest a dinner plate
to smash against a brick wall. I’ve never seen a roomful of people so suddenly awake, so reborn. Of course
that was years ago, before we lost Brooklyn, before they came for Queens.  

This city has a habit of killing its ghosts, but it hasn’t kept up with your haunting.
Even the water hasn’t managed to turn your bottles back to sand.  

Patti Smith protect us. Richard Hell forgive us. Lou Reed let us never forget your ripped nylons, your
drunken plans, how you woke up every morning to eviscerate horses to bone. We want to know how you
failed or succeeded at surviving whatever your life was. But even now, I don’t. All I can do is stab at truth,
waving a bottle, letting it fly, waiting for the head-clearing satisfaction of hearing it break. 

Because we don’t fear wilderness but its opposite: the stripping of secrets, the bleaching of bones, the
relentless building of buildings.

Because we don’t fear Batman but Bruce Wayne: champagne, handshake, deals
behind closed doors.

Warriors, come out to play. Bring back a little reckless to this brave new city. 

We’ve made it to the beach before you. We’re hiding in plain sight, magnified. So slow they can’t see us,
so low they’d never dream of our iridescence. But we are always here, always inching, always covering
ground. We are scrolled messages, signs, and you will come to read us. 

 


Julia LoFaso's writing has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Conjunctions, and The Southeast Review, among other publications. One of her stories was a finalist in The Southeast Review's 2013 World's Best Short-Short Story Contest. She has an MFA from Columbia University and lives in Queens.