Forever Queens/ The End of the N
By Lilly Sabella &
We wrote two poems about our relationship to our residing borough, Queens. (Lilly is a lifelong native and Toni moved to Astoria five years ago.)
I saw glimmers of God in the streetlight lamps that shined through the cracks of my fingers as I covered my eyes from the New York City night exhausted in yet another $8 Uber ride from Roosevelt to home the fast lights dragged my heart to exit 33 as I bloomed beneath my forever, my Queens. I couldn’t write fast enough to fill the train rides my legs numbed on the E where I memorized poems to recite in French class my eyes closed on the 7 always on the way to work and back Hunters Point and sweeping sunsets printed on the inside of my eyelids as I soared above food trucks and groups of teenagers I memorized boots and heels and the toes of strangers our sides pressed together each passenger connected through a chain of thighs touching and arms rubbing swaying to the beat of the closing doors and endless delays. There were buses and buses because my friends live deep Buses because I do too because this place is so big and broad you can sink in it the subway can’t reach it all Buses I begged for free rides on and waited in the rain for some passengers obeying the unspoken rule of law in the land of blue chairs and yellow wires, some not. and as I looked in my seat (farthest in the back, last one on the right) around at the mothers wearing Paw Patrol backpacks and their children, so small, their feet not yet touching the ground all I could think was that everyone seemed so tired as we rode together, without the luxury of cars to take us on our own. all the days spent here, together, blurring into something that mattered. I’ve run all throughout Queens searching for my name from Jamaica to Jackson Heights Astoria to Corona until the borough became a part of me, where I spent hours walking under the El feeling everyone was so alive eating outside of food trucks and blasting music in languages I couldn’t understand buying iced teas from the bodega men and petting deli cats my whole life spent here a part of me, with pride
The End of the N
the first apartment is what they mean when they say “shoe box”
a Craigslist listing with no photos
ceiling-high windows frame the lofted tracks.
I learn to let the subway lull me to sleep at night
I race it to the station most mornings
and lose most mornings
taking too long to climb up to the platform
where the wind blows fierce through the tunnel
the city sounds from below echo above.
Living at the end of the N means
you always get the seat you want in the morning
tucked in the corner of the car
where no one asks you what you’re reading
if you keep your head down.
On Saturdays I write on barstools
where they know how I take my coffee
and what time I switch to wine.
When the lights dim low
I nod along while other locals grumble,
Train was stuck at Queensboro for half an hour today.
Did you hear about that Target moving in?
Maybe in five more years
I’ll weigh in, too.
I’m constantly lost in Queens
23rd Ave or 23rd Road or 23rd Drive
the best I can do
above or below Ditmars
towards the park
down by Steinway
by this friend or that friend’s apartment.
One day I walk the wrong way out of a bar
a sun and trio of stars on a yellow awning catch my eye
and I step into a modest storefront filled with titas
who have my mother’s tongue.
I’ve never seen a Filipino grocery store before
and there was one right here
this whole time
and when I Google it later
because I was worried I’d forget the cross streets
there are more.
On my way to the park I visit our elderly neighbor, Maya
petting her nose through the garden gate
(Maya is a Siberian Husky.)
Then I stand on our side of the East River
down the hill where the concrete slopes into green
until the sun ducks behind the Hellgate
replaced by Manhattan’s glow
I turn and walk in a straight line home.
Lilly wrote her poem first, and Toni took cues from Lilly’s poem to contrast her experience. The pair edited them together to compliment each other’s work. Each poem was inspired by their own lives and relationship to Queens, what they love about it and where, in the borough, they find poetry.
Lilly Sabella is a 17-year-old feminist, writer and co-owner of the online charity shop, Happy Thrifts. When she’s not writing you can find her casting spells, drinking bubble tea or gushing over her latest thrift store finds.
Toni Brannagan is a Queens-based writer, editor, & content strategist. She is a Hunter College graduate and currently Manager, Member Marketing at Brightline. Her career has been primarily built at start-ups, including Thinx Inc. and Parade. In her free time, Toni writes short stories and re-watches the same TV shows over and over again.