Jellyfish

Jellyfish

A mist that stands around the bay

Like a herd of white pigs above a silver trough.

                                                                 The town has been enclosed by the sea

                                                                   That turns fluently into the sky

                                                  Like the upward curve of a bubble.

 

 

When I look at it, I feel dizzy.

 

Feet are numb in clear, Scottish sea,

                      the tiny shoals of invisible fish

                                                          Swim nearby.

                                    The light catches them,

   x-raying their transparent bodies, Purple:

A squiggle of brain visible.

 

I encounter the jellyfish in the shallows.

                       He sits, a bulbous contact lens, or

                      The glass of a giant’s eye,

Blinking with the foam.

 

                                                         A wink.

 

                                     I call it a ‘him,’

                                trying to recall

                        animal, heart, lungs,

                           Blood into the gelatinous lump he has become.

                                                   Without his ethereal legs and stings

               He doesn’t trail but merely scoots along the tideline,

a shell.

 

                                                                                                      ‘Some jellyfish are eternal.

                                                                                           ‘They don’t have a natural death,

                                                                                                                They just continue.’

 

Part of me wants to stab it through the centre

        With a pointy stick,

                  To see if it would burst like a pimple

                            Or a water balloon,

                                                                                             but why bother?

 

Whatever fills it is clear, a liquid of nothing,

And would rush away into the froth, poison into salt.

 

                                                                                                               I am sickened a little,

                                                                         and I wonder if it were possible that a jellyfish

                                                                                                           Might know it were old.

 

They are creatures close to clockwork,

                   their brains and knotty capillaries

                                             Open observatories.

 

 

Raising questioning eyes to the skyline,

 

                                                                  I debate whether or not I should bury the jellyfish.

 

 

                                        A message might come from out of the sea.

 

 

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Before Sleeping

Before Sleeping

 

I can’t sleep,

 

So I think about the penguin tank.

 

Beneath the aquatics centre at Colchester zoo,

            In the eery underground light

The fiberglass rocks are shining.

When I touch them they are always moist:

                                                the breath of a thousand visitors on my palm.

 

Cheek against the chilled glass, I peer into cloudy water.

 

                                                          Penguins float,

set in glistening gellotine

                      and grimacing at me

with their sideways grins as they rise and fall,

                      like carousel horses,

 inhaling on the breath between each fall up

And Down.

 

Smooth liquorice bodies,

             chasing silver fish heads.

Bits of flesh fall slowly,

        trailing ribbons of white and red absurdly caught

in the caverns of blue between the real world

                  and the sea-bed, swept smooth like a shell.

                                                                     Penguin bellies squeak against it as they dive.

 

Do they believe,

                                 I wonder,

 as their black beaks toss gutted faces in suspended cartwheels,

That through the upward fall of bloodied intestines

                                                        They might suddenly find grey sand?

                                                                   and buried beneath it, colder sand?

                                               And bones, and shells, and earth, and the silent memories?

 

How can they sleep in this little blue world

                                     where there is not enough room

                                                                      for a whale to swim freely?

 

                                                                                                       I linger with a silent splash

                                                                      on the darkness at the bottom of their descent.

                                                                             Soft corpses falling like confetti and  

                                                                                    I might find among the dead

                                                                                  the clean spikes of whale bones.        

.

Sleep comes in a thought, like the last bubble of air.

Notes on baking

Chai tea cupcakes, whiskey icing piped slowly, cautiously, on top.

round and round, with a peak.

Cupcakes for the friend flying across seas; I bake his plane into the air, my frantic stirring the roaring engines. I pray furiously, willing him safely away from us, but at the same time, wishing him back. I add extra whiskey, as if the scents of tea, cinnamon, and the act of baking will keep my memories fresh and pungent. His bakers hands holding a gin martini, reminding me not to over-bake.

Olive Scone bread; heavy with cheese and oil, tearing like fabric and barely baked. Hot and sticky, it smells and tastes like minestrone soup and sitting in the kitchen doing the crossword with my father. It’s generous and overbearing and sweaty with fresh parsley, the aroma puts in mind the names of foreign cities, the powers and identities of the ancient gods, and obscure titles of barely heard of plays. Each fragrant bite is a box and an answer.

Somewhere, in a city I’ve never been to, a woman I know is waking up. She is stretching her limbs like raw dough, and craving coffee in the roof of her mouth. As she pushes her way into the morning I am pushing my hands into a morning bread dough, folding in dark sugar and cinnamon as the brightness oozes out of this Scottish evening. As it bakes, filling the night with smells of honey bread and morning,  I think of her looking out over an unfamiliar skyline and sighing over her coffee cup. I imagine a whiff of bread might catch her gluey morning thoughts, and we will be drawn together. Impossibly. Across space and time. 

Chocolately and fruity, these indulgent muffins lying on the rack are the moment I bite into a lemon curd mini-pie at my wedding. They taste like the afternoon sun and the metallic bitterness of adrenalin, the fluttering relief of the color of the world, still there, even when married. Her baking is always exquisitely phrased in gentleness, and as I carefully lace the chocolate muffins with raspberry jam I think of her sweetly placing strawberry hearts on each one.

I think of her pulling home baked shortbread from the oven, and placing them in front of me with a steaming cup of tea, full of comfort and condolences.

I think of the rays of warmth from her aga, the smell of her dog, and as I pipe the icing on these muffins I quietly imagine her presence hovering, the same way I hovered so often by her, as she sprinkled icing sugar and spread jam and listened.

I bake,

slowly,

badly,

frustratingly,

trying to be as good as those who bake for me.

As I wait for so many things to rise, and prove, and rest, I wait for the memories of laughter and shared moments. As yeast livens and brews I pray I might grow too, that something might stir alive, and then I might miss them less and love ‘this’ more.

This lonesomeness full of scented nostalgia; the smell of friends and baking.

 

 

When all the Flowers are Dying

When I’m empty I can’t say what I need.

Because all the flowers are dying.

We send words out like paper boats onto the sea,

electric letters floating tenderly, softening under salt and moisture.

I hope they fall apart before they reach you;

their messages are empty.

 

On the day I was married the bouquet was filled with falling flowers, trailing ivy and thorn-less roses. White and green. As I held then, quietly dying in my hands, I felt then airy and light and not real at all – so pale and white that they might be able to put their hands through me and turn me to powder.

They all fell out, one by one, the sap of their breath drying and crusting at the edges. Now all of the flowers are dying and I am still in my white dress, waiting for life to start.

But everything is thirsty and broken, the limpid petals broken and shrivelled. The edges of my dress are dirty, and the buttons yellowing under desperate fingers. But I am sapless, trapped inside.

And all the flowers are dying.