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Escape from Trash Life, Staten Island 1998, a Poem by Tanya Tuzeo

i woke with the sun that summer / reeking dump familiar with its liquefying salty ozone and human marzipan / and rollerbladed to the closed beach where Earth’s limbs reposed in great sighs / sometimes collapsing like tumbling glaciers made of sand. / i brought boys to kiss among eroding city waste but mostly a blanket and good things to eat.

the landfilled edge held me up / overlooking the old bay my grandfather swam across. / before war / before virus / i wondered often what would become of me—as we all do when young. /

i’d skate home past the old incinerator / dried peach juice trails flickering on legs / sunset irradiating toxic runoff until it all looked like the opalescent inside of a shell.

now pregnant, i return to the beach / this one soft pink and open to the public / lawn chemicals instead of radium—a difference really. / i swim above poised horseshoe crabs / sailboats surrendering white flags to the wind / and begin to love cold water, an eye rolling pleasure when you’re igneous with a child. / there is ice cream by the harbor / hello to the local winemaker promising a visit soon—mother and child in their last moments before the long quarantine / and

another childhood wasteland.


Tanya Tuzeo is a mother to two children and two unpublished poetry collections "We Live in Paradise" and "Miserable People". This poem is from the former, a merciless observation of our most treasured relationships, the perennial ones of motherhood and romance, in a time of environmental and civic decay. Her poems are forthcoming in Wrath-Bearing Tree.


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