THE ORIGIN OF JELLYFISH
No one remembers her name, but long ago
she suffered loss that drove her to her knees
at the water’s edge of the stream nestled
right behind her house. While vital hurts
can be ascribed one word, such as orphan
or widow, her void didn’t translate so easily.
Exhausted from prayer or crying (or are
they the same thing too often?), she fell
into the waters that had risen to rapids
from the storms she caused or ignored.
When they dredged her from the stream
along with mud and rocks like afterbirth,
her hair had become tangled with a limb
lodged so deeply into that deathbed,
someone brought shears to cut it loose
like lamb’s wool before the sacrifice.
The hair tangled unto itself and floated.
The body of water then fed into a river,
which garbled over stones, mumbled
along wider banks, and tried to drown
weaker creatures along the way. That
led to an estuary, with its fecund smell,
life amid death rotting in brackish waters.
Oh, that knot of hair held strong, tighter
than the poor woman’s own grasp on life,
her compounded little and large tragedies.
Currents took the tangles into the sea,
where they crashed alongside waves,
and the woman’s venomous losses clung
while the sun and salt bleached the mass,
and then it all washed back on shore,
strands of hair now nettles that sting
my bare feet when I walk over them,
and my husband smiles and says he has
to piss on me if I want to ease this pain.
Ronnie Sirmans is a newspaper editor whose poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, The South Carolina Review, The American Journal of Poetry, BlazeVOX, Gargoyle, Deep South Magazine, and elsewhere.