The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘water’

Water Source

September 15, 2016 | by

The genesis of “Channel,” a poem in our Fall 2016 issue.

“Channel” at the habitus exhibit. Photos by Jessica Naples Grilli.

“Channel,” as part of the “habitus” exhibition. Photos by Jessica Naples Grilli.

I grew up along the Susquehanna, and taught for many summers along the Tiber, and today most warm early mornings you’ll find me rowing my shell on the Schuylkill. I learned to row in middle age because I wanted to see my city, Philadelphia, from the perspective of the river and to know what it would be like to be buoyed by its surface. Was this how I prepared? Or was it water plants and buried objects, Whitman and Wang Wei, Charles Cros and Works and Days, rhymes and chants, imagining how we pass in parallel at disparate speeds?

“Channel” began and begins with the words “salt” and “sweet.” I had been churning them in my thoughts for months—streams and the sea, the tears in our eyes, and the moisture in our words. A desire, after a hard winter, to write a long poem about a river.
“Channel”: from canna, canalis, a pipe, a groove, a reed, a bed of running water. As I sketched and made notes, I wondered what views the poem could open, and how much history, where it would emerge (somewhere in a spring and in Spring) and where it would end (eventually at Siracusa, site of the sweet/salt legend of Arethusa and dear to my heart). In other words, it started with some words, as most poems start. Read More »

The Empress of Gowanus

July 7, 2016 | by

Two trees grow in Brooklyn.

Empress tree.

Empress tree.

Lately I’ve come to love the empress trees that stand at either end of the Union Street Bridge, which crosses the Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn. The pair aren’t much in winter, but come spring their canopies grow heavy with grand cascades of lavender flowers. The display is especially remarkable because the canal that flows beside the trees is polluted by heavy metals, pathogens, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and other suspiciously unpronounceable toxins. Whatever perfume might drift from the purple blossoms is instantly overpowered by the rot that wafts from the canal’s murky, iridescent waters. Read More »

The Natural Springs of New York City, and Other News

May 9, 2016 | by

A woman drinks at Carman Spring, on West 175th Street east of Amsterdam Avenue, New York City, c. 1897–1902. Photo: James Reuel Smith/New York Historical Society.


November 5, 2015 | by

Albert Bierstadt, The Burning Ship, ca. 1871.

How riveted I was by the illustration entitled The Burning Ship! Is a sinking frigate not phenomenal?

If, by the way, velvet footstools and the like can be whacked free of dust and brushed on Sundays, then authorial activity must be permitted as well.

Do I not feel, when I am exercising my intellect, exactly as if I were sitting in church? Drafting a prose piece puts me in a devotional frame of mind.

How terrifying a ship on fire is. Gazing at the picture, I said to myself: The mariners find themselves faced with the necessity of fleeing the fire; but they have nowhere to escape to but the water, and soon enough they’ll be trying to escape from that as well; yet they have no choice but to take refuge in it. Beautifully spread out, the water lies there like a meadow; not the tiniest wave disturbs this mirror that conceals unfathomable depths. The mirror’s expansiveness poses a threat to the ones in peril, those desirous of rescue. Beneath the water, unknown mountain chains extend. This fact is surely known to the better educated among the mariners, and this precise knowledge makes them feel significantly more forsaken than those who enjoy perfect ignorance in this regard. Education, though reliable and helpful, is also treacherous. Read More »


July 2, 2012 | by

I am the first one in Stockholm’s Centralbadet this Monday morning, followed by James, then by an old man wearing big yellow goggles, who does a steady breaststroke around the perimeter of the pool. Watching him, I switch to breaststroke myself and match his speed. It feels comfortable. It feels relaxing. As the three of us swim counterclockwise, I channel my old age, my flabby form, my unself-conscious senior. I think of the two older women I passed in the locker room, whose modest black tanks encased humps and bones and bumpy flesh. The cruel phrase a friend once used to describe a woman’s backside: “a bagful of doorknobs.” I watch my hands trace their double ellipse in front of me, my mother’s wrists, my grandmother’s knuckles.

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