Raritan Bayshore, New Jersey
At the Old Aeromarine Site
First the marsh grass came, then the motherwort,
then bitterberry and honeysuckle. Blackbirds,
gulls and grackles built their nests.
Mourning doves call from the eaves
of the old factory, closed during the Depression,
though the building seems to be somewhat in use:
a No Trespassing sign, an Elton John song
coming in from someone’s bike stereo.
By the overgrown gate, a few trucks are parked,
and a trailer advising: Never Give Up
On Your Dreams! Own a Street Rod.
A friend sent me here to search for a rookery
of wading birds, but I haven’t found anything.
If they nested here at all, they’d be up to 90 feet high,
or buried in thickets of salt grass. Others, too, come here
when they don’t want to be found: on the guardrail
overlooking the bay, two teenage lovers
share a kiss, and then a joint, huffing
smoke into each other’s eyes, then startling
onto their backs, laughing. Late spring
a kind of emptying out: why
do I imagine they’re saying their goodbyes?
This week’s unseasonable frost killed
the magnolia before bloom. Brittle-brown
frostbuds waiting to drop.
On his podcast, Joe says take notes,
record observations. Keep track
of changes over your lifetime,
your children’s, your grandchildren’s.
Through the open window, a train whistle,
fire trucks, and the laughter
of children across the creek, a creek so small
Google Maps doesn’t register it as water.
I always take the same photo,
though there will be no children, no
grandchildren—whose lifetime, then,
is this for? I give myself permission
to be supremely selfish. At the creek, a catbird
on a cairn. Crabs skitter across the muddy
shoreline. Felled trees will become the pages
where we chart swells and falls, flames and ashes.
Liza Katz Duncan is the author of Given (Autumn House Press, 2023), which won the Autumn House Press Rising Writer Award. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, About Place, the Kenyon Review, Poem-a-Day, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. Liza grew up in New Jersey and holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. She teaches English as a Second Language in New Jersey public schools.