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Published: Tue Apr 15 2008
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
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 peep show,
overshadowing the static girandoles
of attendant anemone and starfish.
_                                                                    _ Blue-

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.

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Nicky Beer is the author of The Diminishing House (Carnegie Mellon, 2010) and The Octopus Game (Carnegie Mellon, 2015). She has won a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a “Discovery”/The Nation award. She teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where she co-edits Copper Nickel. She is married to the poet Brian Barker. (updated 9/2015)

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