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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.

Three Poems by Cameron Gorman

OBJECTS: Heel and Key, Red Rose and Carnations, Tampon Applicators

BODIES OF WATER: Dead Horse Bay, New Dorp Beach

1.
pure silver

it only feels right sometimes
when the moon comes in and the concrete
swells like waves

the scent of inland grasses
much sweeter than this sand

sometimes when the summer feels
just so
and the wind catches you
by the ankles

your body remembers a time before
this one
a you before you are
now

who knew less about asphalt
and more about wood
and who knew
just when it felt right

to never lose that feeling again
who
on a brandy night
on a gin night
on a jack night

remembered how
to never lose
home

 

2. 
nosegay

she read in a book once
about the victorian ladies
stepping around dead
things holding kerchiefs to their
belladonna eyes

they would protect themselves
from the storm
from the sweaty humanity
by perfuming handkerchiefs

holding them to their
faces fanning the
sweet water to their
mouths

she wanted to try it
with other things
with sidelong glances
and eyes that
hitched on to women
like leeches as they walked

maybe the flowers would sweeten
the air the
feeling of the air
the feeling in the air

and she clipped them to try
she spent the money
for one rose
to add to the bundle
she held them to her breasts
she hoped they might
see the flowers first

 

3. 
unravel

it’s impossible to keep
all the tiny pieces of myself
in

and they drop through the sink
through the garbage
into your mouth

i am dirty, so i shower
i shave the hair from my arms
and it washes to sea

i stem the bleeding
and plastics litter the sand

i’m quite sure i have touched
myself, or a past echo of me
when i inhale the seawater
from under the riptide
wave

when i dig my toes into the
dirt, eat a mealy
apricot, drink cold
lemonade

i am already in so much
so heavy, that it makes me wonder
why they think we have to wait
to become one
with the earth

 


Cameron Gorman is a student at Kent State University in Ohio, where she works for student media outlets including KentWired, The Burr and Luna Negra. She is an aspiring writer and poet, and has or will have work in the Great Lakes Review, Work Literary Magazine, Bitterzoet and Better Than Starbucks. Living in New York City for the summer of 2018 has taught her a lot about the value of forgotten things.