Man o' War jellyfish

St. Augustine

I saw the Portuguese men-of-war
shipwrecked like a treasure fleet
a solid mile along the shore.

Hard aground they tried to beat
to windward, set their living sails
this way and that around our feet.

A wave would sometimes climb the trails
of slime and lift one almost free,
then lapse and leave the pooled entrails.

We tried to flip one back to sea,
using a piece of board to help
dig under—unsuccessfully—

then left them, fouled for good in kelp,
the great blue spinnakers to gleam
and gesture, either after help,

or merely sailing their species' dream,
judging the distance as before,
keeping the middle of the stream.

John Barr, from The Hundred Fathom Curve: New & Collected Poems

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