Manhattan here, Manhattan there,
I’m calling this guy El Ladrón.
Manhattan musings everywhere...
He’s a Heermann’s Gull
But he doesn’t care.
He’s hanging here at Manhattan Beach
With Kate & David, who are
Freshly back from Baja California
Where they watched whales,
Lazed on the beach and ate
Vast quantities of scrumptious food.
El Ladrón is returning from Baja BC
And is on his way further south
To some very private Mexican islands
In search of some cute girl gulls.
As he swoops and zooms,
He’s always on the lookout for
A Brown Pelican, watching as it
Swoops and dives, then
El Ladrón steals its bounty from its
Very ample beak.
El Ladrón, after all, means Thief.
Of course, he’ll be happy to steal
Human treats, too. He’s not so picky…
Just incredibly fast and sneaky.
And he has incredibly cute feet.
As El Ladrón wings his way south,
Kate and David wing their own way
Home to their sky pod on Manhattan Ave,
On a tall NJ cliff that overlooks
The Manhattan Island we all know.
Or do we?
All these Manhattans prompt me
To wonder how that name came about
In the first place. Seems though
There’s no definitive “first place.”
In 1609 Henry Hudson plied the seas
And mapped the coast around the mouth
Of the river that now bears his name.
Somebody labelled two places with two words
That are each sort of like Manhattan, but not
Manhattan, but not like in two different spellings.
And the two places are
On opposite sides of said river.
Walt Whitman was the first to use the name
Manhattan in print. The name’s meaning, though,
Is delightfully strewn with opinions
Now deemed as spurious
As old Henry’s first map labels.
“Island of many hills”
Gave way to “Place where
We became intoxicated,”
Put forth as evidence
That the island’s vendors
Became drunk on the Dutch buyers’ spirits.
Seems though, both are myths
On all historical, geographical,
And etymological fronts.
Enter our hero, Albert Anthony,
Né Shiikwáhkwunund, “Lone Pine”
In the Munsee (Delaware) language…
The language of the original inhabitants
Of the whole Hudson Valley region…
Including Manhattan Island.
In 1884 Anthony was
Part of a delegation from
Six Nations Reserve…
And along with three chiefs
Gave an interview that said:
Our traditions affirm
that at the period
of the discovery of America,
our Nation resided
on the Island of New York.
We call that island Man- -h -tonh,
The place where timber is procured
For bows and arrows…
At the lower end of the island
was a grove of hickory trees
of peculiar strength and toughness.
Our fathers held this timber
in high esteem
as material for constructing
bows, war-clubs, etc.
From this prized stand of hickory
To a lone buttonwood tree,
Manhattan's greenery has defined
How the known nations interact
With themselves and each other.
From tools for both hunting
And warfare to the trading of shares,
Often profiting from warfare,
But always in dreams of filling the tables
Of the poor as well as the rich.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
But, then, that's yet another story, eh?...
If this isn't nice, what is?
~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course: