A Smack of Jellyfish
In the children’s zoo: an orb
xxxxxxxoccupied by jellyfish, glass
at child’s height, a light
xxxxxxxchanging color perpetually,
the not-really-fish (medusae) themselves
xxxxxxxjust transparent tissue
taking on the tangerine and lime hues.
xxxxxxxOne floats more idly than
the rest, drawn by a facsimile of
or the others’ wakes—mostly
xxxxxxxresting on the bottom, clearly
dead. Like the lattice of a pie-topper
xxxxxxxrolled out from dough and lifted over
apples or berries. When triggered, the tentacles’
xxxxxxxnematocysts pierce the skin
with venom, the plaque says,
xxxxxxxcan bring on anaphylaxis.
When we saw a rash on our son’s lip
xxxxxxxafter peanut puffs, I held
his arms down while they scratched
xxxxxxxhis back with allergens,
when they drew his blood into a
xxxxxxxsyringe. If need be, I would
stab him with a needle to kick-start
xxxxxxxhis heart, relax constricted
airways. To be fair, these bell-shaped
produce a collagen that might suppress
xxxxxxxarthritis. You can scrape the stingers
off with a credit card, apply hydrocortisone,
xxxxxxxbe fine. They “use a form of
jet propulsion to move,” together can be
xxxxxxxcalled a bloom or smack or swarm.
Mostly water, when they wash up on shore,
xxxxxxxthey start to evaporate. Soft fossils
in sediment, they’re preserved in Utah’s
xxxxxxxancient seabeds. A swarm at a nuclear
power plant’s water intake shut it down.
xxxxxxxThey’ll likely outlive us as a species.
Lisa Ampleman is the author of two books of poetry, Romances (LSU Press, 2020), and Full Cry (NFSPS Press, 2013), and a chapbook, I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You (Kent State UP, 2012). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Poetry, Image, Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily. She lives in Cincinnati, where she is the managing editor of The Cincinnati Review and poetry series editor at Acre Books.