Jellyfish Sting

I swam

not with Tom Cruise,

not with Anthony Hopkins,

not with Kim Kardashian

but with a cormorant

fishing

in flips and furls

seemingly oblivious of me

as I cut silently

through the water

I start the day like this

– arms outstretched,

hands upturned,

palms white,

seeking the sun

and then I draw

a long arc

like Moses

watching the Israelites

fighting the Philistines

keeping God on their side

The sea is

an altar cloth

– an antimension –

which I open

and wipe with a sponge

I begin my prayer

above the water

“Lord Jesus Christ,

have mercy on me”

After a while

my prayer descends

I no longer enunciate

the words

as my mouth goes

below water

My mouth is now

the underside of the boat

(I have learned

something of

the spiritual life)

But when I turn

the sea changes

a dark cloak

has been cast over it

with coruscating

sequins

that prevent me

seeing

below the surface

A sudden

searing pain

wraps itself

around my wrist

I thought pain

was supposed to be

a knife

a spit

something driven in

not something wrapped around

an embrace

an arm around the shoulder

and what to do

when the threat

is your milieu

– you cannot get out

of it

except by swimming

to shore

you cannot stay still

Prayer is tossed

to the four winds

safety is the priority

now

and as I head

to the shore

another hidden enemy

still has time

to give me

a parting shot

On the beach

I accost some locals

unsure as yet

what has attacked me

Jellyfish,

they say

Then how do you swim?

I ask

The old Greek lady

gazes at me

through dark tinted

glasses

I can just make out

the pearls

of her eyes

We look,

she replies

Jonathan Dunne, 28 June 2022