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Cars hiss on the wet streets. Rain dissipates the smell of low tide, dried seaweed. The bay spits up a tire swing: sunsick rubber, split rope. You’d have to be crazy to call home a strip of sand that will be underwater in ﬁfty years and oh, my God, what does that make me? Before slag and smelt and lead, this was clam country. Then, during Prohibition, a causeway for bootleg, the bottles dumped overboard at the sight of police. Even now, barefoot, you might cut your feet on hundred-year-old glass the bay purged. I lean against the window, listen for another rush of rain. I shouldn’t be here: I’ve come home the way rain returns to the earth only to become runoﬀ, to take with it whatever it can carry. But don’t misunderstand: I’ll carry this when the bay takes it all back. Call of the grackle, whine of the turkey vulture. Blighted clams, raw and red in their half shells. The harbor, insistent where it shifts against the gravel, where turning cars leave, in their wake, inﬁnity signs.
Copyright Liza Katz Duncan. From Given (Autumn House, 2023). Winner of the 2022 Autumn House Rising Writer Prize selected by Donika Kelly.
Liza Katz Duncan’s poems have appeared in AGNI, About Place, Poem-a-Day, Poetry Northwest, National Poetry Review and elsewhere. Given is her first poetry collection.
Beautiful precursor to more elegies?
Yes, Liza has real talent for this kind of poetry.
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A powerful meditation on home and environmental degradation.– the state we are in. I like the stanza breaks,
and especially how the poem ends with turning cars and infinity. A poem for my keeper collection. Good luck to the clams, and best wishes for your ongoing poetic career.
Well-said, James. Thank you.
Such delight in the craft of this poem! The sounds, line-breaks, concision, tone. Lovely.
Yes, a well-made poem!