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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.

(Untitled) by Lauren Creight Clark

OBJECT: Human Skull

BODY OF WATER: Bronx River

What will we call these bones?
We will call them ours.

We packed tight this useless mother tongue
and hurled it into space.
How far could we get?

And back, now, reel it in.
Just water rotting on the vine:

a broken fish, its language teeth,
snake-faced from the swim,

a pool of our collective
brackish thinking
waving.

Is that my mouth
is it a long-bodied word
sword-headed
blue like an infant
did I say it?

Only with the sun
do the bones take on
their terrifying white. 


Lauren Creight Clark is a poet and historian from New Orleans, Louisiana. She currently lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.