Ode to the Octopus

You think me a delicacy,
braised and grilled with tangy sauce–
raw, prepared as sushi–
in a salad perhaps, tossed.
You think my senses merely serve
to aid in my survival–
that my existence
is secondary to what you deserve–
a special meal without rival.
And what of my disappearance?

My body is all potential,
alien to your bones–
my way of life, untranslatable
as words or thought alone.
I study you, your habits,
both curious and sly–
resisting my captivity,
escaping from your limits–
forcing you to abide
with me if me you wish to study.

I am my own canvas, I paint
colors with light and disguise–
my form always in flux, I create
patterns of magic, surprise.
Once we were one, at home
in the sea, the waters of birth–
since opened by history, cleaved–
now you claim land as your own,
along with all creatures of earth–
disenchanted inside your vast greed.

When I saw the NaPoWriMo prompt this morning, to write a poem that anthropomorphizes a kind of food, the first thing that came to mind was how I could never eat octopus again after reading Peter Godfrey Smith’s book about them, Other Minds. These paintings are from a previous post where I also used the voice of a cephalopod, though not from the point of view of being eaten.

I promised Muri I would attempt an Ode–just as difficult as I expected. And this one needs work. But the octopus is more than worthy as a subject for one

Aliens

You meet me only on your own terms, describe me and put me into categories based on the systems created by the human mind.  You expect me to respond like you do, refusing to grant intelligence or even sentience to my interactions with others of my species, with the world I know, inhabit, understand.  You deny me even the dignity of knowing who I am.

The sea calls to you—it is where you came from, what you carry in the cells that form your body.  Before history begin, we were all one.  You believe in your own superiority, the pinnacle of a tree with many branches that was seeded in the ocean.  But the branches are subtle, complex.  Our paths are so divergent they intersect only on completely different layers of reality.

You consider the possibilities; I am all potential.  You struggle to reconcile body and mind; my brain is everywhere in my body, fully integrated into my entire being. We have no physical equivalence.  What makes you think your dreams are better, or more real?

what is a thought?  can
words capture it?  images,
colors, patterns—this

is music—transformations
into chords of utter joy

It took me awhile to figure out what animal to give a voice to for the earthweal challenge this week from Sherry, when animals speak. But I kept going back in my mind to a book I read last year by Peter Godfrey Smith, Other Minds, about the octopus but also about how life came to be. Cephalopods are truly alien forms of life.

They are their own canvas, their own clay, with malleable bodies that can change their skin both in color and pattern. Their mind is located throughout their body and arms, and they seem to both learn and play. Is it possible to ever truly understand their consciousness?