Making sense of sea stars

I went to bed last night, thinking

of George Carter, the boy in New Orleans

who advocated for food justice and built community gardens,

who spoke at 15 about the cool peace and refuge they offered

and the warm taste of strawberries,

just before he was shot and killed by a gangbanger’s stray bullet.

I went to bed last night, thinking

about Baton Rouge Officer Montrell Jackson,

who said, “I swear to God I love this city,

but sometimes I wonder if this city loves me,”

who posted his offering of a hug or prayer

nine days before he was killed by someone who clearly needed both.

I went to bed last night, thinking

about Colonel Samuel Mims, who fought

the open burn of chemical explosives in Camp Minden, Louisiana

and said, “I am always a little irritated,

but when the government wants to poison my air

and send the children of this state to St. Jude’s,

I get downright pissed.”


I kicked at the sheets and thought, too,

of the mysteries of the starfish

– “sea stars” the scientists would say –

how occasionally it breaks itself,

and no one knows why.

one ray just twists off, and walks away,

sometimes in response to a predator or stimulus,

but just as often not.

The sea star’s self-breakage is at once passive and violent,

the main portion of its body suctioned tight, while the

separatist ray twists and turns at right angles,

until this amputation is complete.


There is much I don’t understand in this world, in this time.

How to find order in what seems senseless.

How we can’t keep a boy who loves strawberries safe.

I thrash around under my grandmother’s quilt and

Try to grab a fistful of meaning in the long arc of the moral universe,

the essential and enduring kindness I see sparked by so many,

the musings of marine biologist Ed Ricketts, who said,

“it would seem

that in an animal that deliberately pulls itself apart,

we have the very acme of something or other.”


We must, else what is the alternative?


4 thoughts on “Making sense of sea stars

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