by Dale Stromberg.
Poets sometimes draw emotion from us by evoking sensations in the way of music or painting, with their words’ connexion to analytical sense left purposely tenuous. Likewise, the story underlying Shyla Jones’s “Jellyfish” is metaphorised into imagery and voice, and this narrative voice becomes its most lucid element. Who this narrator is, we cannot say; but, if we are who we are through other people, then she is who she is, at least within this piece, through her mother—the only other character identified, whom the narrator grimly apostrophises, and who allows the narrator no other physical or social contact. Within this enforced dyad seethes that original filial promise, and menace, to outlive the parent. The mood of the prose is of monstrosity, of animals born and slaughtered, of dampness and the tomb, as the narrator, in chilling assuredness, wends towards her mother’s end. How parent may have earned such animus of child is left to the reader’s intuition.
The prose expresses the mother/child relation in terms of iteration: the mother’s birth, the deaths of the mother’s parents, and the mother’s own fate—to become, in the story’s final condemnation, “parent rock”, a buried substratum producing new soil. Iteration is also intrinsic to the piece’s central metaphor: a biologically immortal jellyfish that returns continually and perpetually to its polyp state. Child to mother to child again: there is a promise of cyclicality in this, though the narrator warns her mother, as this cyclicality looms, “don’t scream.” Earlier, we are told the mother, as a baby, “had hair like silkworm cocoons, stringy and pale”, and this hair, I speculate, was the tentacles of the mother when still a polyp, before she metamorphosed into an adult jellyfish—a medusa.