Man o’ War

man of war

A Portuguese man o’ war that washed up at Island Beach State Park June 28, 2015. (Credit: Kevin Knutsen/New Jersey Jellyspotters/Facebook)


Portuguese man o’ war, floating terror, bluebottle,

with venomous tentacles delivering a painful sting.

Not common jellyfish, not single multicellular organism.

A colony of specialized minute individuals attached.

Well-armed surface sailor incapable of independent survival.


Here is a bit of background to accompany today’s little ronka poem. I was inspired by news reports of man o’ wars appearing in the ocean off New Jersey recently.

The name “man o’ war” comes from the man-of-war, an 18th-century armed sailing ship, which this creature resembles if you see a Portuguese version at full sail. Like a well-armed ship, they pack a punch with a sting that can last for about an hour after a human comes into contact with the marine cnidarian. People who are allergic to the species’ venom often need to be hospitalized.

Their appearance off NJ can be blamed on the Gulf Stream which took a sizable population of them that with a few days of strong northeasterly winds, pushed them on shore in New Jersey. A rare but not unheard of visitation.


Rogue Wave

Ocean phenomenon, after thousands of years, unexplained.

Large, spontaneous, out at sea, once mythical.

That thing that comes at you suddenly

and overwhelms, without warning, without apparent cause.

Gasping for air, you fight to surface.


Log Page From Long Beach Island

“It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” –  John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez


Walking the tidal pool feels primeval – still

it’s today but hermit crabs, sea urchins,

sea squirts, baby sheepshead, spears and periwinkles

have ancient forms scuttling over my feet –

ghost crabs moving through time and space.




Dolphin 56


Atlantic wanderer, traveling Florida to New York.

Identified by its freeze-branded “56” dorsal fin.

Visiting boaters for twenty years, a loner,

old, at 45, unseen for several years.

His freedom lures us into the water.


The very social Dolphin 56 has a Facebook fan page.