Original Text: 
© My Alexandria: Poems by Mark Doty (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993): 52-54. PS 3554 O798M9 1993 Robarts Library
1The jellyfish
2float in the bay shallows
3like schools of clouds,
4a dozen identical -- is it right
5to call them creatures,
6these elaborate sacks
7of nothing? All they seem
8is shape, and shifting,
9and though a whole troop
10of undulant cousins
11go about their business
12within a single wave's span,
13every one does something unlike:
14this one a balloon
15open on both ends
16but swollen to its full expanse,
17this one a breathing heart,
18this a pulsing flower.
19This one a rolled condom,
20or a plastic purse swallowing itself,
21that one a Tiffany shade,
22this a troubled parasol.
23This submarine opera's
24all subterfuge and disguise,
25its plot a fabulous tangle
26of hiding and recognition:
27nothing but trope,
28nothing but something
29forming itself into figures
30then refiguring,
32recognizable only as the stuff
33of metaphor. What can words do
34but link what we know
35to what we don't,
36and so form a shape?
37Which shrinks or swells,
38configures or collapses, blooms
39even as it is described
40into some unlikely
41marine chiffon:
43Nothing but style.
44What binds
45one shape to another
46also sets them apart
47-- but what's lovelier
48than the shapeshifting
49transparence of like and as:
50clear, undulant words?
51We look at alien grace,
53by any determined form,
54and we say: balloon, flower,
55heart, condom, opera,
56lampshade, parasol, ballet.
57Hear how the mouth,
58so full
59of longing for the world,
60changes its shape?
Copyright 1993 My Alexandria: Poems by Mark Doty University of Illinois Press


31] ectoplasm: outer gel-like layer. Back to Line
42] Isadora Duncan (1878-1927), the renowned American dancer. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Special Copyright: 

This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Mark Doty.