After a painting by Jennifer Ninnis
We have heard of selkies and mermaids,
women who shed the burden of their human
skin and take the form of sea creatures, seals
or hybrid beasts. But no fabulist I know of
has yet imagined that a woman might embrace
a sea star’s form. Invertebrate, radially symmetrical,
moving so oddly on its myriad feet it seems
a composite rather than a single beast, this
creature has an eye on every arm. It has
the power to regenerate its parts, and sometimes,
cut in half, has been known to mend its body
if the vital organs have been spared.
Anyone might envy this power. So perhaps
it’s not surprising that the woman in the deck
chair, weary of her life on this side of the ocean,
might desire a sea star’s life, so she gradually
assumes this form, lengthening first one leg,
then another. Her hair retreats into her scalp,
the neck and head preparing to become
yet another arm. In one last action of her
human mind, she sends a message in a bottle
into the surf, telling her story to the waiting world.
This poem previously appeared in Nestor's book Narrow Bridge and the anthology Dark Ink (Moon Tide, 2018) .
Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry: a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and three collections--A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has also edited two anthologies--The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nne Toes, 2014) and an Ekphrastic e-book, published as a special edition of Poemeleon Poetry Journal: Birds, Beasts, and Trees--celebrating the photography of Beth Moon. Her poems, reviews, essays, and blog posts have appeared widely, most recently in Tiferet, London Review, Pirene's Fountain, Rhino, and the anthologies Collateral Damage, Poets Facing the Wall, and Pirene's Fountain Culinary Poems. She is an elected member of the Academy of American Poets.