Nicky Beer

Octopus vulgaris

The tank bubbles intermittently,
but there is no tide to sway her into grace.
Turn, and in your peripherals there’s

               a sudden flex, a time-lapse lily blossoming
into your blind spot. Trebled, as if by volition,
now spread against almost the entirety
of the glass, she obscures her habitat and commands

you to the entirety of herself, her self-
               tossed parachute of cream and coral.

But no—she can never know fully the spectacle
               of her fullest extension, her underside
a mystery only glimpsed in walleyed glance,
rather than the awesome totality now

riveting you before the tank’s illumined peepshow,
overshadowing the static girandoles
of attendant anemone and starfish.


blooded, three-hearted hedonist, she arches
               into Gehry porticoes against the thick plate
                              addled by green neon, plots for the hour

when she’ll heave herself out during the night


               shift, gorge herself on the neighboring scallop


Admit it—her splay and sprawl
               has made you blush. Just looking,
                              you think, as if such an enterprise

were safe, as if she were not
               the pupil-Pandora she is,
               who can open a jar if only
               you’ll teach her.




“Octopus vulgaris” first appeared in AGNI 67 (2008).