Upon This Wide Water, On Our Broken Boat - Two For Staten Island Ferry, Circa 1985 Manhattan - Poem by Warren Falcon
'On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross,
returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are
more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.'
- Walt Whitman, from 'Crossing Brooklyn Ferry'
Upon this wide water, Whitman's bay, wandering
outward toward Eastward windings -
Upon this white-starred charted bay we ride
gray with midnight leaning toward the Towers**
distant growing, stalking, yellow and glowing,
mimicing the stars -
Our eyes stare tearing,
seawind pushes lids to slits.
We glimmer. Lights shimmer
ahead and above,
and still we cry -
The ferry, furtive, floats the edge of Manhatta.
There's power pushing against the bow,
riptides to the rear, but we go on,
approach sleepily, enamored of gin and
the beds we will make again and again
pulling sheets tighter. This stretching water
safe-keeps the light of eyes and the city there-
Upon the water's wide skirt one will, quiet,
lift up a hand to the spray, sway for love,
and pray for the world -
A dark tern unfurls from the sail
of a starboard yacht, flirts once with
the silhouette extended upon the wave,
then leaves, an under-turning rail or rudder
sinking in the ferrier's wake.
Each night there must be one, out there,
on the deck, supplicating in boozy tongue,
oozing heart-love all over, spurning the way
things go down in the world, cheap spindrift
the cranes know of, dipping their bloated beaks
to the waves. And he must dip his head, braying,
with his hands motioning to the night -
[**World Trade Towers]
'Others the same - others who look back on me because I look’d forward to them, What is it then between us? ...What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us? ' - Walt Whitman
On our broken boat the harsh light will not break.
We see our day clearly as we can.
Tell the night, now it's here to stay, that
once I glanced the sleeping youth, legs against the wall,
felt a pall descend upon us here,
this boat lancing the bay waters darkly.
Some to books then, the priest to his sad, effeminate stare.
I can no longer envy those of the black cloth
so bend and tie the shoe.
We shod our feet against what long loss of motion,
eyes downcast or boldly returning the stare?
Beneath each eye there's some familiar look we refuse.
We map our way to sleep in the palms of shy or frightened hands.
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