Rhina P. Espaillat

      Circling the Jellyfish

When they walk the beach
barefoot, trailing their separate
urgencies, hers are the slow tracks
that circle the jellyfish.
His vanish into foam.

"Hurry up," he says,
leaning on sea wind toward places
where the view has to be better.
But she is riveted to
this glassy wafer,

watery daisy,
blind eye straining to blink, dazzled
by so much sun. And she measures
the distance between heaven
and dying earthbound.

"Don't touch it," he shouts:
but she is trying with one foot
to flip it home, to tip it free
of seawrack and bottlecaps.
He calls her away.

All afternoon, through
the sweet stink of indifferent
prodigality, cool salty
sea tang flavored with murder
and the slime of birth,

he skims horizons.
But she bends over breathing holes
sucking themselves into wet sand
where the tide draws its white scarf
carefully away.

She is kneeling to
what lives there, what is extending
itself, translucent and fragile,
under the pound and whisper
of beating water.

Everything is bruised:
mussel shells on crooked hinges
that neither fold again to pray
nor unfold to fly; crab claws
flimsy as cheap toys.

Mourning for the void,
he inscribes blue spaces above
the sea's chorus of small hungers,
the clutter of broken things;
but she is bruised by

she is anchored by
the look of life's empty cages.
She is circling the jellyfish,
loyal as the womb; she is
mourning Genesis.

Rhina P. Espaillat, Playing at Stillness,
Truman State University Press, 2005.