The first corpse I ever saw was a scattered mosaic of washed-up jellyfish splayed across the shores of Far Rockaway beach. The rancid stench of their tide-washed flesh was everywhere. I was six, so of course my brain said they must be sleeping. My father warned me not go near them, but I didn’t listen. I cradled one of them like a stuffed Teddy Ruxpin, stripped of its tape-cassette bone, exhaling like a damaged oxygen pump, with each breath depleting more and more. Leaving its gel-plasmic carcass nestled between my soft-boy arms. I turn my baby-fat flab into a cozy crib, held it close to my tiny bosom—only to find out it’s dead. As I started itching fiercely, my dad nods with the most “I told you so” look stretched across his face,
“Come on son, we’ll head home, put some calamine lotion on you.”
Even in death, a jellyfish still can carry the venom in its body.
A poetic irony that I was too young to understand.
The rash was mild. Witnessing the first death I saw outside of a Disney film was something much more painful.
I felt helpless in what action could be taken, but I wanted to do something.
Unfortunately, “something” can devolve into “nothing,” especially when you’re only six years old.
Later on that night, at my dad’s apartment on Nostrand Ave we sat together on his futon, and watched the film Fly Away Home.
Watching a father and a daughter estranged by their indifference; reunited by the common goal of conservation.
Watching a what could have been moment reenacted, but never lived.
Watching my father sighing, ignoring the beached creatures once sprawled before the both of us.
Watching a part of myself eaten away earlier than nature would have intended.
J.B. Stone is a neurodivergent/autistic slam poet, writer, and reviewer from Brooklyn residing in Buffalo, NY. He is the author of A Place Between Expired Dreams And Renewed Nightmares (Ghost City Press 2018) and INHUMAN ELEGIES (Ghost City Press 2020). He is the Editor-In-Chief/Reviews Editor at Variety Pack. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Noctua Review. Peach Mag, [PANK], MoonPark Review, Five :2: One, Buffalo News, and elsewhere. He tweets @JB_StoneTruth
image: Leven Farrell