the waves receded in december

& abandoned the jellyfish on the beach.
no messages were etched in the sand—
no lovers or children

dragging twigs through the grains.
we were left with cargo ships
rounding the harbor,

left standing amidst a plume of the dead,
sunlight stinting off bodies
the color of melting glass. i admit

it was sunset. i looked at them
to keep from looking at you.
some withered

from tentacle-up,
those trailings purpling
black, manubrium collapsed,

nerve net flinching
like a touch-me-not. you didn’t answer
when i asked which of us

is more poisonous.
some had lost their luminosity & lay
transparently mauled,

the mesoglea’s edges frayed
& milky white,
the whole gelatinous mass

disfigured, less umbrella-shaped
than a shriveling flower
at half-wilt. slowly we inched

close, toed them with sandy shoes.
watched them shudder in response,
wobble back to stillness. look

how i can describe a dying thing
without once saying your name.

Raena Shirali lives in Columbus, OH, where she is currently enrolled in Ohio State University’s MFA program.