Manahatta by Alicia Ostriker


But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists.
–Garcia Lorca

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
says Walt, lover of crowds, lover of all trades and occupations, celebrant
of the daily tide of immigrants, and I too seek the perfect image of you–

You are an iron island, a rusted ship aground, a finger inside the sky,
you are the bus terminal of hope, you are the incubator of lost umbrellas,
you exist as a landing field for helicopters, your laughter is heartless

You appeal to fame-gluttons, people who need to fly, who want to gamble,
people who like to show off and be bad, who get a kick
from champagne. I am looking for a toaster in the hardware store, and here

two women stand behind a counter minding their cash registers
in their red apron uniforms. A points to B and says You know
what she did Saturday? She went skinny-dipping.

I wonder where. B looks pleased with herself. The Harlem River. Really?
it’s where showoff boys used to dive and we giggling girls used to watch
those bad boys. Times do change. B says, I have to let my bad girl out sometimes.



Major American poet and critic Alicia Ostriker has been twice nominated for a National Book Award, and is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry, including The Book of Seventy (2009), which won the Jewish Book Award for Poetry, and The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog, published in 2014. Ostriker’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Antaeus, The Nation, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The Atlantic, MS, Tikkun, and many other journals, and her work has been widely anthologized.