Poetry / God of the Jellyfish

Cervená Barva Press

Publication date:

paper, 40 pages, $7.00

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At once sacrilegious and reverential, the poems in God of the Jellyfish seek the divine in a natural world governed by the laws of science. In these poems, you’ll find a god in the shape of a jellyfish, a prayer celebrating the color red, a man for whom music becomes the source of salvation, a vision of an earthly paradise populated by moon bears and moon rats, and a pilgrimage through 14 stations where Sisyphus, Shaker women, and howling wolves appear. Lucille Lang Day deftly couples scientific observations to the engine of imagination to take us on a magical and inspiring journey.

God of the Jellyfish shimmers in a space where ‘moon cacti bloom at night’ and magpies can ‘fly over a field/of small glass bottles.’ The world Lucille Lang Day creates in her poetry is vivid and surreal yet always deftly anchored in the beauty and truth of the natural world. This is a small handbook of magic. When you read it, you’ll find yourself transported to places you’ve never even dared to imagine.”
— Susan Terris

“There are few contemporary poets who use science in their poetry at all, let alone use it as Lucille Lang Day does here, as an element, both dreamlike and hyperreal, in her gorgeous, moving global lyric.”
— Richard Silberg

God of the Jellyfish

The god of the jellyfish
must be a luminous, translucent bowl
the size of a big top,
drifting upside down
in an unbounded sea.

Surely this god, hung
with streamers and oral arms,
ruffled and lacy
as thousands of wedding gowns
and Victorian bodices,
created all the jellyfish of Earth.

Male and female, god created them
in god’s own image:
the cross jellies and the crystal jellies,
the sea nettle and the golden lion’s mane,
the sea wasp and the Portuguese man-of-war—

and gave them nerve nets instead of brains
to ensure their humility,
put statoliths like tiny pearls
in their sensory pits
to give them balance,
and placed spines on their nematocysts
so they could capture food
and would sting and burn any
living thing
that would harm them.

And the god of the jellyfish
gave them ocelli
that shine like the eyes on a butterfly wing
when they turn toward the light,
and now their god watches over them
with god’s own great ocellus
as they swirl and dive
in glistening cathedrals, and does not
expect worship or even praise:
the iridescence
of their umbrellas will suffice.

— Lucille Lang Day

From God of the Jellyfish, first published
in The Cloud View Poets (Arctos Press)