Monthly Archives: January 2014

Manhattan Schist


Manhattan Schist

 by Annie Lanzillotto


New York has a destiny of glitter.

We’re built on it.  Born of it.  Born of glitter.

This is Manhattan schist.

This is why we can build high into the sky.

This is why cranes thread the sky,

hoist steel up into clouds.

It’s cool.  I press my forehead down to it.

It’s alive.  I breathe it in.


Four hundred and fifty million years ago,

the east coast slammed into the Atlantic sea floor,

the sand and clay dove nine miles down

into the very alive bone marrow

of this earth, hot marrow

where sand and clay

mixed with quartz and feldspar and mica and hornblende,

quartz and feldspar and mica and hornblende.

Mica, from the Latin micare to glitter,

Mica is atomically flat and alive,

So flat you can make a mirror out of it.

Mica loves water.  Mica seeks the sea.

Mica fostered life forms before cell walls existed.

Before cell walls existed!

Thousands of degrees of heat,

megatons of pressure

Voila!  Out of this glittering womb

is born the metamorphic rock: the glittering Manhattan Schist!

Rock that’s black and sparkles,

rock that Nooyawkahs emulate

in our slick dress and shine.


Metamorphosis is change in form.

Change by pressure, change by heat, change by friction

change by distortion, change by pressure.

The pressure we know as Nooyawkahs.

Nooyawk for Nooyawkahs.

Change is the bedrock on which we stand.

Metamorphosis is the bedrock of the walk of our life.


Our beloved Manhattan Schist is a glittering skyline beneath us.

At Ground Zero it’s eighteen feet below the surface.

That’s why we build there high into the sky.

Schist dives deep, two hundred and sixty feet below Village sidewalks.

Comes up at midtown,

that’s why we build there high into the sky.

Dives down again and surfaces uptown.

At 120th and Madison, schist is three stories high

like a whale breaking the flat-as-earth sea.

In Inwood there are glittering caves.

Skyscraper beneath skyscraper,

Skyline beneath skyline,

Broadway beneath Broadway,

Light beneath lights.

Strongest rock in the world.


You gotta find your inner schist.

like the buried sun inside you.

When your crust goes to your core,

and your core to your crust.

When you lose all surface accoutrements.

When you got nothin’ left.

You find your inner glitter

And you know you’re home.


It’s great to go to Sloan-Kettering all the time.

Over the past twenty-nine years, I average sixty visits a year. 

The great thing is they turn me inside out.

Blood and bile, vomit and bone marrow,

Chemo is a jute rope pulled through me

Radiation I swallow then spit at the scum in the crosswalk,

superhero radioactive venom spit.

“Get back Asshole. You don’t want me spitting on you!

I ain’t kidding.  Stay away from me. Toxic Lesbians Unite!”

Yellow and black radioactive trefoil symbol

I wear as an armband.  The pregnant

stay outside my eight foot radius.

I can’t hug my own dog.

No one can sit on my lap without reprisal.

Hell, if anyone holds me at night,

they’d absorb more radiation than one should in a lifetime.

Back off.   Radiation is planted

in seeds under my skin.  Radiation I take in

through every pore of skin across my whole body surface.

I turn inside out.

My crust goes to my core.

My core to my crust.

Crust to core.  Core to crust.

Inner schist glittering.

The buried sun inside me.

I know I’m home,

in the sidewalk’s spark at night, curbs jumpin’,

glittery sparks of internal light

like the buried sun in the earth we mistake for gold.

New York City glitters wherever I step

The Sun’s hands sit as if some Goddess spits on each stone.

Sparks fly into the night, silver fish awaken, sidewalks pulse and buckle.

I run over coursing waters hot molten belly.  Jump

I follow the glittery spark internal light.  Jump

Glittering womb that is home.  Jump

My home glitters. 

Glitter is my home.