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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.

Water Isn't Free and Neither Are You by Morgan Parker

This poem was written for a collaboration with the A.I.R. Gallery. Morgan Parker was inspired by artist Erica Stoller's installation, "Floating," which you can see here


When our aunt died
last week, my brother
called to tell me I
would die too. The deep end
is relative, is the first thing
they teach us. River means
nigger. Nigger
means hollow.
Censor means savior.
Curve means come.
Nothing on the Internet
is safe. Everything is
Something, even this
piece of paper.
I never learned to swim
but I went swimming.
once I paid four dollars
for a Perrier. I want the ocean
without danger or cost.
I want to be a name you can
forget. In my life I get
the chills for no reason.
I learn the words
to the new Rihanna prayer.
I arrange myself where
people live. There are rules
for poolsides and empty cups.
Everything means Be Careful.
I roll around in loss, ready for war.
When something dies, I buy a new one.
When I get bored, I close the window.


Morgan Parker is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (Switchback Books 2015), selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize. Morgan is Cave Canem graduate fellow, winner of a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and poetry editor for The Offing. She also co-curates the Poets With Attitude (PWA) reading series with Tommy Pico, and with Angel Nafis, she is The Other Black Girl Collective.