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Clade Song 7

Sea Nettles

     Monterey Bay Aquarium

Frilly mouth-arms,
stinging cells—very Parisian,
you say, as we mill
past them at the aquarium.

Stinging cells, very Parisian—
“so Folies Bergère!”chimes a stranger
standing beside you at the aquarium.
“Carmine skirts with lacy underwear”

(so Folies Bergère...)
When those tentacles reach
from the carmine skirts, lacy underwear,
they paralyze and stick tight.

What those tentacles teach
their unfortunate prey:
“We paralyze and stick tight,”
our field guide says--

the unfortunate prey
sucked in by those seductive ruffles.
The field guide says
lace boils up; tentacles pulse and drift.

Ah those seductive ruffles,
that vibrant exumbrella ballet...
Lace boils up. Tentacles pulse and drift,
the beautiful poisons.



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Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the author of Spider Season (Cold River Press, 2016), The Fortunate Islands (Marick Press, 2008) as well as a number of previous small press and online collections.. Her work has also appeared in many anthologies (including, she is especially happy to say, The American Entomologist Poet's Guide to the Orders of Insects), and in print and online journals at home and abroad. She is currently a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Northern California Book Reviewers Association. For more information, please visit her website at