Monday, June 14, 2010

Jellyfish (poem)

Jellyfish, Commencement Bay

(for K.W.)

At an edge of Commencement Bay,
an array of jellyfish has patterned
its position near charcoal stumps
of old pilings. We could look at
sailboats, tankers, a para-glider,
a volcano, an island, two mountain-
ranges, or each other—no:

jellyfish transfix. At first they
look like ladled dollops of brown
butter floating atop bay-soup.

Then they suggest small veils
cast off by tiny mermaid brides
now on honeymoons. We lean
over a deck-railing, large mammals
with heavy heads that pretend
to know; who mumble things
about jellyfish-stings. Fascination
defeats knowledge easily.

They’re neither fish nor jelly. Do
they swim or float? Yes. Strings
that originate inside them orient
languidly toward land as if to tune
in to a broadcast from sand. Do
jellyfish communicate? Doubtful—
probably too evolved for that.
Everything’s composed of water,
light, oxygen, and byproducts:
what else is there to know?

Simple and surreal, jellyfish are
beautiful mucous, buoyant
membrane. Comatosely alert
and illumined, their shifting
forms respond to smallest
liquid undulations at an edge
of Commencement Bay.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom
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