The Nature of Animal Light

by | Dec 11, 2019 | Poetry

Magnify a drop of ocean water 25 times & you could find any number of things:
fish eggs, crab larva, diatoms, worms, zooplankton, dinoflagellates. Of course, not all of that

lives in a single drop, but it could if the ocean was denser & you collected water
with a net at night when everything surfaces. Everything worth loving comes alive

at night & is illuminated. If we were lucky enough to be bioluminescent, the tide of you
would light up these bruises I’ve got up & down my legs from where your knees banged

against me in our greed to magnify our desire so we could see what small creatures reside there
where our sweat is the closest thing to the ocean we have. Still, I want you closer.

Become the bruise, nestle into my capillaries, spread like warmth until you are absorbed
back where blood belongs. I remember falling on the playground when I was 9 &

a girl named Emily wiped the blood off my knee with her bare hand & told me to get up
quick, to rub the tears from my eyes, to act fine so the other kids wouldn’t laugh. I wish

I would have cried & bled & told Emily thank you, but instead I did what she said
& never cried in public again. I wore pants every hot day that week to cover up the scabs &

bruises, watched the other kids go back to playing tag with their unharmed knees. Sometimes
the tiniest creatures in the sea light up so bright they create the Milky Seas. Thousands of

miles of ocean glow so luminously they can be seen by satellites in orbit around the Earth. The
light is blue & eerie in the way you can sometimes see veins pulsing through skin.

Last night you said you were ready for the apocalypse & wanted us all to go at once if we were
to go at all. In one kiss I understood all of that. Don’t go, don’t go without me, let’s go.

It’s true, if you drink too much seawater you will die, but I want to drink enough to know
that I contain more than I will ever understand, that I can hold it all inside me. I’ve stared

through this lens for so long my eyes are watering & when I look up, you are there,
you ask what I’ve seen & all I can say is Can I show you these bruises? They are so tender.


Photo used under CC.

About The Author


Meghan McClure is author of the chapbook Portrait of a Body in Wreckages (Newfound Press, 2017) and co-author of A Single Throat Opens (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Tupelo Quarterly, American Literary Review, Pithead Chapel, American Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in California.