portion of the artwork for Scott Beal's poem

the octopus looks up octopus on Wikipedia
Scott Beal

and finds it belongs to an order evolved to defend itself
in marvelous ways    mostly by subterfuge    often by hiding
in holes or shut up in a discarded coconut shell
many have sophisticated skins that spike out like seaweed
or roughen to rock-scrabble    pattern texture tint
so closely matched to a patch of reef the specimen vanishes

which explains how the other walked past the futon this morning
where the octopus lay rumpled    without seeming to see it
it wonders how long this has been going on    how many
household patterns it’s mastered    if that’s why the other feels alone
when they’re together    there’s a mimic octopus that ensures it’s seen
as something else    tucks its arms and becomes a banded flatfish

or bends them erect like lionfish spines    toxic shapes that say stay away
all octopuses are venomous    it reads    so it is venomous
but few are dependably deadly    so when hiding fails
they jet in haste    blast plumes of black ink    slip through thin cracks
some sever an arm and send it skittering as bait    the octopus
counts its arms in case    wonders if they grow back


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 46 | Fall 2015