Liza Katz Duncan

Panic Grass

I’ve learned the language of your parables.

            Some days, I hear your voice

                        inside my own, all panic grass and cautionary tales.

 

Today’s like a painting: a flat sky,

            rough clouds reflected in the bay.

                        Still, the water, ridged and solid, suggests

 

something’s off. Below the surface, hundreds

            of glass minnows. The color when they

                        jump at once, shrill, an instant glint, shouldn’t

 

exist in nature. The rotted remains

            of a dock, teeming with gulls and cormorants.

                        Preening, already drunk on fish, they know when

 

they’ve had their fill. I hear your

            voice inside my own: your admonitions in the way

                        I use the same word, carelessly, to mean

 

two things. Fish: the creature, its displacement.

            Drunk: both person and past action. I’ve become

                        a Frankenstein (there it is again): the word for both

 

the monster and its maker, cause and outcome.

            Impossible to unmonster myself:

                        I ran slipshod

 

with beasts of the underbrush to beg and beckon.

            Caught my laces, stumbled, fire-flushed

                        on the talons of brome grasses and bulrush.

 

Liza Katz Duncan is a poet and teacher in New Jersey. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, The Shore, Vinyl, Phoebe, The Journal of New Jersey Poets and elsewhere. She is an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson College.

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