Jellyfish


 

Often, they came with the tide and stayed

for days—moon jellies, pink meanies,

 

Portuguese man ’o wars snagging the breeze

with their puffed and iridescent sails.

 

We walked onto the dock and counted

handfuls, tentacles drifting behind them

 

like spectral rags. But on red-flag days

when they clotted the bay in apparent hordes,

 

we knew to stay out of the water.

Most afternoons, we put the baby down

 

for his nap and then walked outside to see

what we could find: blue crabs and stingrays,

 

fat redfish cooling in the shade, a snatch

of silver mullet in our neighbor’s net, and, yes,

 

sometimes there were nothing but jellyfish

so thick they coagulated the sea

 

back when we loved so much we loved

it all, even the venomous things.

Photograph by Lauren Smothers

Suppose the Conspiracy Theorists Got It Right


 

and it’s true. We’re not as alone

as we thought we were

down here on this earth

of rhododendrons and oil fires,

longleaf pines and islands

 

of floating milk jugs

laced with floss. Once, we found,

in a ship of undetermined origin,

a humanoid creature

with pale gray skin

 

about the size of a chimpanzee

and dying. This isn’t a fact

in the way we usually define them.

It’s something better.

I believe in the Holy Ghost,

 

in the multiverse, in my hand

and the unseen particles of air

that surround it. Above us,

nebulas are proof

that even the stars know how to die

 

and leave behind something better.

Let’s all shout it together: The sky

has unlimited potential! The universe

cups our failures close, rolls them

like a pearl inside her mouth.

Kate Gaskin is the author of Forever War (YesYes Books 2020), which won the Pamet River Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Pleiades, The Southern Review, and Blackbird, among others. She is a recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as the winner of The Pinch’s 2017 Literary Award in Poetry. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

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