You, Me, and the Jellies

So, I keep revising this stupid poem (don’t tell Lydia I said “stupid”) in hopes that I’ll actually like it someday, and I think maybe it’s just doomed to end up in the burn pile. It has been called “Airlie Beach, Valentine’s Day, 2001”, and then it was “Resurfacing”, and now it is “You, Me, and the Jellies.” I don’t know why I keep kicking this thing around, but it has always seemed like a poem with so much potential! So, here it is. Once more around we go.

You, Me, and the Jellies
Airlie Beach, Valentine’s Day 2001

The sun reflected off the stainless steel table,
the shadows swallowing water and wrack line debris,
tangled around a warning – Box Jellyfish: No Swimming
November – March
. I told you I didn’t think this would work.

Three days of diving and sailing awaited us
and six other backpackers. But I had never seen
the Southern Cross, so bright and obvious above the Pacific,
its clarity crisp against the pitch black.

Tangled palms embraced themselves by the beach
and I clung tight to my pack, waiting for your answer –
Well? Can we work? You sipped your beer.
Our conversation carried eternal decisions

with as much weight as ordering tacos or nachos –
“If I never believe, can you still be with me?”
Tacos or nachos? I don’t know, I hovered,
low, muffled, staring over the water, I don’t know.

The small, deadly box jellyfish floated
unnoticed, warm water glamorous
and alluring as it lapped the shore.
We went under in our scuba gear, stepping off

the back of a catamaran, tacos and nachos
simmering in our guts, oblivious
to jellyfish swishing around my ambiguity,
my wanting it both ways, my frailty.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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