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Have you ever seen jellyfish

swim— their tentacles

rippling from rubbery domes

in graceful convulsions?

 

As a kid I toed the gelatinous

insides of the ones

that washed up on the beach.

 

Even then, my mind went to the sea often,

cold and pitch black

except for the angler fish

attracting things with its glowing lure. 

I saw it close its teeth around prey

like the cilia  of a venus fly trap.

 

I saw great swaths of plankton

luminesce neon, turning the waves

green, blue, bright red.  

 

And the jellyfish suctioned by,

their bodies bulging like parachutes

their stringy limbs drifting behind.

 

In my head I swam among these ancient,

brainless things

transfixed by their ugly beauty,

drunk on silence.

 

It was then,

caught in the tides of color,

I knew I had been floating there

for half a billion years.

Kat Hayes is an English instructor at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.  Her work has appeared in Nimrod International Journal of Poetry and Prose and has been performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.


 


I wrote this poem from a prompt that I gave my creative writing students:  “Which piece of land would you wish to have preserved forever and why?”  I realized that my answer wasn’t land at all, but ocean.  I’ve always been awestruck by the sea, particularly deep sea creatures—their sometimes vibrant colors, their brilliant adaptations.  I wrote down a few phrases in response to the prompt.   Then, as usually happens, I became haunted by the sounds of certain words, in this case “gelatinous insides.”  I also knew I wanted to give an honest effort at trying to describe the strange, but agile way jellyfish move through the water.  The poem took shape from there.



 


 




  


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