★ ★ ★ ★
The Picnic by The Ocean
The Octopus offers me one of his three hearts,
briar and holly for friendship in the second and third,
saved for times of longing, times of loss.
A strange romance, I admit—
Friends would never approve or believe,
yet he was untouched by human hands.
How can we say this is not a source of wonder—
“Who will sing my song, if not you?” he asked.
“Who will dream of me, as I lay under the stillness of water?”
Even an Octopus can be eloquent, and then again,
as we know, enormous need can become power.
What am I supposed to do now?
I stand by the water,
my woolen dress unraveling in the waves.
The Octopus Has Three Hearts
With seaweed in my hair, I enter.
Sun skims on top of the blue as I become one with my breath,
and my lover sinks, flies down beyond currents,
“See, it’s not unpleasant,” he says,
I realize how each shell is without birdsong,
with shadows looming, waving yellow to amber
then blue, colors never seen before,
you just have to go deep enough,
pieces of wreckage, pieces of what may have been flesh.
What have I given up to get something I did not want?
I never desired the octopus,
I just didn’t want anyone else to have him.
Is that wrong? Or just human? And who am I,
right now, swimming like a fish,
to speak of being human?
A traitor to all air and sunflower, I gave up feet
in warm sand, my bonnet, a chair, cycles of stars, for a
promise, and what was that secret now? I forget.
I wonder if it’s a sin to marry a sea creature,
and what is sex below the surface?
Just when I think he’s gone he appears again:
filling all space—he’ll never leave me alone, he says.
That’s what worries me, I think.
It must be evening – I see clouds inciting the water,
water reserved now for the last dark.
He wraps his arms around me and holds on.
I don’t mind if I’m not his kind
I get along with everyone, using pleasantries
from other times for passersby –
Have a good day. Do you think it will rain?
Is it warm enough for you?
Everyone likes me even if I have only one heart.
I look everywhere for him, through fog on the water—
Where does he go, where does he always go?
A large grey mammal with one eye
never leaves me, he’s a good companion,
we get along, although an unlikely friend.
The sky lowers, making my loneliness exorbitant.
I’d never leave my octopus unloved
for I wouldn’t wish this for an octopus or
anything like an octopus.
For one moment fleeting
I thought I saw him behind the coral
pink satiny rocks, shimmers of green,
a strike of light, blue enough to make me happy while I wait.
My grey creature moves closer than I’d like, whispering
This is not your world. What did you expect when you follow an octopus?
There’s a cold front coming.
I see a scuttling under rocks.
Grey creature moves even closer.
In the distance I see waves of light
pink waves pink light moving ripples of water.
He’s coming for me. My beloved.
He’s coming for me.
Grace Cavalieri is celebrating 40 years on air with her series for public radio, “The Poet and the Poem,” now from the Library of Congress. She has 20 books of poetry published and 26 plays produced. She holds the “George Garret Award” from the Associated Writing Programs for Service to Literature along with poetry and playwriting awards. She holds (twice) the Alan Ginsberg Award for poetry, The Bodighera Poetry award, The Pen Fiction Award, the Columbia Prize, plus others. She’s the monthly poetry columnist/reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books. She holds the CPB Silver Medal for broadcasting.
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