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.