Cultural Watch

Lamentation 212, Verse 718

By Carla M. Cherry, Posted: September 9, 2022

Are you still moving to Texas after you retire

I asked a friend.

“Nope,” he replied. 

“I’m staying right here in NYC. 

At most, I’d go upstate. It’s the best place to be. 

Politically.

The weather isn’t too crazy, 

we don’t get hit with a lot of storms.”

Three weeks later, Wednesday, September 1, 2021,  

Ida bombards Northeastern skies, sent rivers surging,

floods our subway stations and streets, 

strands more than 600 cars,

left a sinkhole in Morris Park, 

drowns eleven of us 

in mostly-illegal basement apartments.

Friday. 

My locs freshly done at the salon,

the 6 train still out of service 

between Parkchester and 86th,

after lunch at Maxwell’s, 

I had to walk from 111th and Fifth 

to my bus stop on 120th and Third,

nodding to hip-hop and salsa from passing cars,

past congregations on stoops and schools, 

La Marqueta and shoppers along 116th, 

politely declining 

but wishing God’s blessings 

on two men hawking $2 MetroCards 

as I deposited $60 on mine 

with my Commuter Benefits Mastercard,

and fail in Spanish to explain to the woman who stopped me 

that the 6 train was not coming.

Single-use plastic bags 

and plastic containers 

from fast food joints float down the streets

and clog sewer drains.

I dodge secondhand cigarette smoke. 

Hot-step six feet away from

the carcass of a rat on 119th.

I shake my head.

Write two notes to myself in my cell phone:

write to the City Council and Mayor Adams,

demand more funding

for the Sanitation Department 

so that every street is as clean as Park Avenue below 96th, 

and for the Grow NYC and the Zero Waste Initiative.

The other, to buy bamboo toilet paper 

and paper towels,

Earth Breeze laundry sheets 

to reduce my own carbon footprint.

It can’t be too late for us 

to slow the Gulf Stream and sea level rise 

with laws curtailing corporate carbon emissions.

To restore the marshlands.

Build flood walls and permeable pavement.

Convert empty office buildings into affordable eco-friendly apartments 

with terraced and rooftop gardens, 

first priority for the unhoused 

and for people living in substandard conditions.

Transform empty office lobbies into 

ground-floor food markets selling locally grown produce 

and sustainable home goods.

Build an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art public transit system. 

Replace our gas-fueled cars with hybrid vehicles.

Should managed retreat from NYC

become necessary, 

my heart may dissolve 

like soil in a mudslide 

without the sidewalks 

where I skipped hopscotch and double-dutch.

The honey locust trees and lampposts 

that were bases for tag.

My walks across the bridge 

to the soft sands of Orchard Beach.

My thirteen-story view of 

Long Island Sound

City Island

Goose Island, 

gulls skimming the surface of the bay

which glimmers in sunlight and moonlight. 

How far would I have to go 

for Atlantic waves that knock me off my feet

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

“Lamentation 212, Verse 718” is a tribute to New York City, expressing hope that its leaders realize the urgency of housing justice and climate change.

Carla M. Cherry is a high school English teacher. Her poetry has appeared in various publications, including Random Sample Review, Bop Dead City, Anti-Heroin Chic, 433, Raising Mothers, and ISLE, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Her five books of poetry, Gnat Feathers and Butterfly Wings, Thirty Dollars and a Bowl of Soup, Honeysuckle Me, These Pearls Are Real, and Stardust and Skin are available via iiPublishing. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the City College of New York.

Warmly,

Carla C.