When I was eleven, I started taking the subway alone; I learned what it meant to pick myself up and walk myself down as the train roared rickety. On the cross-borough ferry, it was all magnified, the holding of myself; high above the water, I was a traveler in my own city.
Ferry III – Manhattan to Governors Island (2019)
Alone on the upper deck, there were buildings I saw
that I would have pointed out to a companion, compacting it back
into my own brain, that was fifteen and I was fifteen
and I could lift that word
like a big basket of tissue paper, fift-een, don’t you feel
How that word is full of air?
Alone, I wrote:
ivy tumbled out of my lips today
that which I’ve saved, in cupped hands
thickness of being, I suppose
shortest ferry of all today,
in greenish water
not even moved long enough to make that rush
but the sun made it white
shaky on my legs, today.
shaky on my words
the ferry to the train
When the ferry’s motors churn the water, it removes specific location; looking down at the sparkling curtains of foam, it could be any water, anywhere. I felt the same effect from the pandemic, particular settings only accessible through glass, my gaze focused on this space of general pixelation. The empowerment of aloneness gave way to a self trapped behind isolation, and I wanted more.
When I was finally able to return to the specific location of high school, the subways were too crowded at morning rush hour — we took the ferry to school instead.
Ferries – Brooklyn to Manhattan, 2020 and 2021
By the pier, the silver fence looked like wool
We rode on the outside up top; looked up at the thick fog rolling under the
bridge when it didn’t hurt our eyes, that’s a commute to community
I was so close to the water, so far from it
so far from land, sev-en-teen spilling that
word is more of a decantation than a lift
condensation, respiration, search me while I wind that path by the river
picking myself up and setting myself down