Vox Populi

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James Davis May: Portuguese Man-of-War

I don’t imagine pain, but I do feel
a sadness watching it throb on the sand
like a blanket with a mouse inside. Mauve,
shriveled, it reminds me of the birthday balloon
my daughter wouldn’t let me throw away,
how it sank each day for weeks,
weighed to the floor by its own weight,
or rather its failure to transcend that weight.
Something of blown glass to this shape,
or something neural—a brain and its nerves,
and only that, what it might be like

to be a mind without a body,
instead of a body without a mind,
which may be the case right now for the poet
who’s been in a coma for days and will die soon.
Maybe the mind just drifts away,
like these animals that drift with the weather
and the tide, the tide and time that shred them
as they reach the shore. Look at this one,
its sail translucent, its inky tentacles
taut as a line of verse. After the thing dies,
they go on, stinging whatever touches them.

Copyright 2023 James Davis May. From Unusually Grand Ideas (Louisiana State, 2023).

James Davis May is a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing and the author of two poetry collections, Unquiet Things and Unusually Grand Ideas. Originally from Pittsburgh, he now lives in Macon, Georgia, where he directs the creative writing program at Mercer University. He is married to the poet Chelsea Rathburn.

Portuguese Man of War (source: Forbes.com)

6 comments on “James Davis May: Portuguese Man-of-War

  1. Rose Mary Boehm
    April 6, 2023

    So enjoyed this. Love every line, every though, every ‘musing’.


  2. Loranneke
    April 6, 2023

    Those 7 last lines! Perfect!


  3. warren obluck
    April 6, 2023

    Another unusually grand poem from an unusually grand book.


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This entry was posted on April 6, 2023 by in Environmentalism, Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , .

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