Poem-a-Day - "Apostrophe" by Liza Katz Duncan

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April 30, 2022 

Apostrophe

Liza Katz Duncan

Ocean, every so often, a kitchen tile or child’s toy 
rises from you, years after the hurricane’s passed. 

This time, the disaster was somewhere else. 
The disaster was always somewhere else, until it wasn’t. 

Punctuation of the morning after: comma between red sky
and sailors’ warning; white space where a storm cloud lowers. 

Where the bay breaks away, the sentence ends: a waning
crescent of peninsula, barely visible 

but for the broken buildings, the ambulance lights. 
Ocean, even now, even shaken, you hold the memory 

of words, of worlds that failed slowly, then all at once. A
flotilla of gulls falls onto you, mourners draped in slate.

Copyright © 2022 by Liza Katz Duncan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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About the Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize

Liza Katz Duncan’s “Apostrophe” is the second-place winner of the 2022 Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize. Established in 2019 with generous support from Treehouse Investments, the prize is given to honor exceptional poems that help make real for readers the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment at present. Beginning with the Saturday after Earth Day, Poem-a-Day will feature this year’s three winners on consecutive weekends.

“This vivid, lyrical description of the aftermath of a hurricane speaks directly to the many people on the front lines of the climate crisis. The poet’s careful images show us how the impossible has become mundane, and offer us necessary space to grieve.”
Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali & Alexis Pauline Gumbs

“This poem came out of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Years later, objects lost in the storm continued to wash up on the beach. The ocean remembers, even after the news cycle has moved on.”
Liza Katz Duncan

Liza Katz Duncan is the author of Given (Autumn House Press, 2023). An ESL teacher, she lives in New Jersey, on occupied Lenni Lenape land.

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Thanks to Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Cast Away: Poems for Our Time (Greenwillow Books, 2021), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Listen to a Q&A about Nye’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year.
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