A Bloom of Jellyfish
Every morning Dan lifts her light, thinning frame,
carries her to the car, drives her to the vet. Every day
they say they’ll do what they can, those cruel peddlers
of hope. Rosie is dying; he won’t admit it;
he pours food down her throat with a syringe. Very soon
he’ll put on her leash, drive her to the beach, lay
her wasted body on the sand she loved to gallop through.
The sun will slip, a milky drop, into the brine. Until then
she fades slowly. Dan asks us to sit with her one night.
A grim task: the dog paces room to room, toenails
dragging over thresholds, her chin dripping drool,
whining, whining. She won’t sit, won’t eat, won’t drink.
There’s nothing to do but watch from the couch.
Storm-winds paste leaves to the screen. Sky billows
like a shaken sheet, electric-charge blue, a darkness
thinking of light. Mik tells her it will be all right.
Yet how stale and unstirred the air in that old house.
Only the sound of Rosie gasping. How she hangs
from Mik’s arms like damp seaweed, how stiffly
her legs jitter when he lowers her into her bed.
Together we steer her through the dreaded passage.
It’s dark in there. We don’t want to go ourselves,
but we send her, with a light pat, Go on girl,
and she trusts us, blind gods, and she goes.
The next day is orange and blue and bright as autumn
ought to be. I walk to the wharf in a chipper wind,
clear to the end, sit down and peer in.
There’s a shine you have to steer your mind past–
a sharp glaze of white over the brine. You need
to concentrate, to want to see behind the light.
I see and call Mik. He bikes out,
sits down too. They don’t have brains,
he says. Dozens of little jellyfish
glitter like streamers on the handlebars
of a child’s bike. Each one has a hook inside
like the filament of a light bulb. They sway
whichever way the wind moves the waves,
whichever way the moon. He adds,
They don’t have hearts or stomachs,
as one the size and shape of a thumb
slips between the wharf bricks
easily, perhaps never to return.
Ghosts of the ocean, they rise to sight then fade,
thoughtless as flowers, weightless as tissue.
What a comfort they are! How I envy
their lightness, their twinkling frames!
They sway sweetly into the terrible dark,
tolling, glowing bells sounding in the waves.
No one else sees them; the people and dogs
hurry past. We look into the water a long time.
We watch even when the wind turns cold
and the tide leaps over its bounds.
by Mary Ann Honaker, first appeared in Salem Writers’ Group: A Literary Anthology, from Whichever Way the Moon (The Main Street Rag, 2023)
Cover art by Joe McGurn, cover design by M. Scott Douglass