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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.

Ephemeral by Hossannah Asuncion

This poem was written for a collaboration with the A.I.R. Gallery. Hossannah Asuncion was inspired by artist Melissa Murray's painting, "Nest," which you can see here, as well a visit to her studio, where she met Melissa and her then two-week old son. 


The wisest words the young
speak reach us from the grave.
Bluer words than cobalt.
Blues to hold white
to hold a tea that we
hold when the blue
in seafoam is neither
nor ether.

 

There is a hungry ocean’s mouth.
Sometimes the drowned return
a softer glass than they ever intended.
They are no more to hold water.
How. They were the water.

 

If I make a boy then no one should take him away.

 

The boy is a letter.

The boy is
yolk.

 

The boy is my left palm. The boy is painted blue bird before he is pink mist.

 

The boy is her boy before he was my boy.

 

The boy is John.

Or Aylan.

Or the wink of Eligio.

 

The boy belongs an ocean.

 

The boy belongs an ocean.

 

The boy belongs an
ocean.


Hossannah Asuncion grew up near the 710 and 105 freeways in Los Angeles. She currently lives near an F train in Manhattan.