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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.

Mother of Exiles - the Hudson speaks to New York City by Laura Fairgrieve

OBJECT: Statue of Liberty

BODY OF WATER: Hudson River

Liberty was not delivered to us in an envelope
she was shipped from grayer pastures and I
breathed life into you in a new land
I brought you here and into her arms
and I am awash of postcards and trapped lightning
I am scabbed over from the coins tossed into me
my currents were made for larger bodies

I yawn and a hundred years worth of trash
gives way to bronzed shores
bronze arms
all greenness is forgotten by the wish for heat
the hope of skin and blood to greet it

keep your pomp, my waters were meant
to rush like a busted dam
to tangle and mix with bodies tossed by
the Atlantic, the Mediterranean
born by the Queiq
to clean off the pomp of their regimes
not to paint on a new one
to surge beneath foreign ships
not to knit a net against them

ban your own pomp and if you don’t know who I mean
imagine a fountain
a pipe bursting outwards like a rocket
a rising tide erupting from an index finger
pointing into its own pale eye

my waters were meant for mightier shores
and the woman above me
shrinks at the seams
while my currents stretch like fingers
searching for the worthy whose rafts
are kept away
our golden door is bolted and
my currents itch outwards.


Laura Fairgrieve received her MFA from Adelphi University where she currently teaches. Her work has appeared and is forthcoming in Inscape Magazine, Mortar Magazine, Ink in Thirds, The Bitchin' Kitsch, East Coast Ink, and Words Dance Publishing. She is a recipient of the 2016 Poets & Writers Amy Award. She lives in Brooklyn.