Oc­to­pus

The Iowa Review - - MARY QUADE -

Is ev­ery­thing shaped by what it escapes? The oc­to­pus has no bones, no rigid ob­sta­cle to con­ver­sion. Its head, a sack of or­gans. Its arms, ner­vous. Given a slit, it will slip through, as one in a New Zealand aquar­ium slid, for­sak­ing the lid of its tank, squeez­ing out of the glass box, then eas­ing this new idea of it­self onto the floor, to the drain, that door to the ocean. My pulpy brain in­side the stone of my skull shifts be­tween oc­to­puses and oc­topi, de­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion. The skin of the oc­to­pus trans­forms to rock, to reef, to shad­ow­dap­pled sand. Ev­ery oc­to­pus is an or­phan and lonely, breed­ing only once, then dy­ing. The fe­male hangs on un­til her eggs hatch—for­go­ing food, wav­ing sighs of cur­rents over her brood. Some­where in Kansas, a lit­tle boy swal­lows a tiny oc­to­pus and chokes—his care­giver, ar­rested for abuse. The story flits through the murky news, then dis­ap­pears. Above the Bospho­rus Strait, we bite bits of suc­tion cups bathed in lemon juice and watch dol­phins leap be­low, stitch­ing across the sur­face of the ship­ping lane— a lucky and vul­ner­a­ble sight, but we don’t know this. The oc­to­pus has eight limbs and two hearts, like we do some­times. In our own sea, we hide, ob­scured by squirts of ink. Just think, if you put an oc­to­pus in­side a jar, it can slowly un­screw its way free.

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