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” from The Octopus Game, by Nicky Beer, © 2015. Reprinted by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Nicky Beer's book of poems, The Diminishing House, will be published in 2010. Her work has been featured in Best American Poetry 2007, AGNI, The Nation, Nerve, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. More from this author →