Lines Composed a Few Miles from Staten Island, On Revisiting the Streets of Manhattan during a Workday. November 13, 2017


Ferry at Dawn:
a beast of a machine plows through waves,
ferrying masses of bleary-eyed humans
to the monstrosity they are compelled to
create, to construct, to consume –
a beast of a machine covered with
nature’s grace, droplets of life
coating the beast, clinging to skin
of humanity, of machinery
benevolently – compassionately
ferrying us to man’s folly

Ferry at Dusk:
city’s behind me, day fades to dark
through peaceful waters, ferry me back
color me fired up, color me glowed
set me down gently, set me down home



Notes: As I stood at the front of the ferry on my way to work while rain misted down around us, I was struck by the contrast between the massive energy of the ferry rushing over the waters and the delicate raindrops coating the metal. No one stood outside that day because it was far too cold.

But I thought about a conversation I’d had with a friend once – I loved the ferry because it allowed me to feel closer to the water and to nature; he disliked it because of its massive machinery and because we can feel the thrum of the engine as we race over the waves.

And of course, it occurred to me, the ferry was taking us to the city, where many of us would in some way be contributing to the machine takeover of nature – but here was Nature, reaching up from the water and down from the skies, to cover man’s folly in beautiful, delicate, life-giving drops of water.

And if the machine could not gain from the lifegiving qualities, at least we humans on board the machine could be rejuvenated from Nature’s kiss. [Seriously, every time I write notes to my poems lately, I find myself writing another poem… This one needs to be written into an actual poem at some point, too, I think.]

Post-note: Things that are wrong about the way I wrote the poem:

It’s wrong to talk about the ferry and the city as if they are somehow separate from nature. As humans who are part of nature, things we create are part of nature too – how can we draw a clear delineation between what is “natural” and not – a boat made of wood and powered by manual rowing is no less or more natural than an engine-powered ferry, is it?

It’s also wrong to describe the ferry as a “beast” in the same poem that sets it apart from nature, because after all, beasts are most definitely part of nature, even according to the most basic, non-critically-thought-out concept of nature!

So what am I saying in this poem, by retaining all these problematic elements? I’ll leave it up to you as the reader to interpret that 😉

Post-post-note (I have a lot to say about this, okay? Don’t judge) – I posted parts of this as a different poem earlier, after I had revised this draft so much that it was unrecognizable except for the last two lines. But when I read this in my drafts folder now, I kind of like it better than the revised version and decided to post as is. So I’m kind of self-plagiarizing here, but I think it’s ok 😉

3 thoughts on “Lines Composed a Few Miles from Staten Island, On Revisiting the Streets of Manhattan during a Workday. November 13, 2017

  1. I’m so with you on the notes. I’ve never been able to fully understand phrases like, “I’m leaving the city in order to get closer to nature.” Why not say closer to trees or clean water or mountains or ocean or… exactly what they mean. The city isn’t unnatural, just nature dressed in manmade fashion. And that doesn’t have to be so bad.

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