Steven Clayman: The Sea Anemone
Consider the anemone:
Nominally, it is something of an anomaly.
On land it is delicate and flowery,
At sea it is decidedly carnivore-y.
The Neptunian variety seems the epitome of femininity,
Gentler even than the affable manatee,
With a velvety soft and vaguely floral anatomy
Billowing many-hued from lemony to cinnamony.
But this tableau is illusory.
It is, in actuality, a predatory enemy
Of the entire diminutive aquatic bestiary.
Possessed of a crest of tentacularity,
It is utterly lethal and lacking in charity.
The cunning rascality
Of concealed animality
Verges on criminality.
O say can you, sea anemone,
Account for your veiled enmity?
What sinister cosmogony
Explains you and your progeny?
A bubble-borne riposte arose from the sea
In a voice strangely moist but with calm certainty.
“ It was not fated to be,” said the sage ’nemone;
“Chalk it up to fortuitous phylogeny.”
The self-satisfied polyp struck a pose, all quivery,
Which a nearby crustacean mistook for come-hithery.
Its ingestion is a lesson in selection, naturally,
And the perennial perils of perception v. reality.
Sea-Anemones by Giacomo Merculiano. (1895 print)