Emily Dickinson as an Octopus with a Pre-Death Plan

4 May 2016

I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?
— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground


I

From the high-care low-life facility where my head lolls in the briny bowl
Doctor Death asks what my priorities are What goals I have in the short term
What I am prepared to sacrifice What not I’ll tell you what I want—
to make bad choices, pick a fight, drink more wine, raid the fridge at midnight, steal
that woman’s earrings, disembowel carnations, rip to shreds that New Idea then shoot
for a wave where an octopus looks me in the eye like a Hindu god with the wisdom of
a newborn babe, takes my measure, shows me personality, holds a tea party with
nothing in it but chocolate cake and opioids then hides me in her cave, two of us
minus our ancestral shells sharing a spliff, smoking our guffawing heads off.

II

Back in our tanks outside visiting hours we are chastened, and when nobody’s
looking she oozes across to greet me in redness of excitement I touch her head,
she turns creamy white, relaxed like no one I know, so many lobes coil around her
throat She meets my mind, spits salt water in my face to show me how much
she knows me, she knows me, knows me—bored to death by melancholy she squeezes
her boneless body through aquarium bars it’s mayhem as she marches across her Amherst
lawn suckering everything in her path Down Down Down to the water changing colour,
texture, spots, commas slashing pages with short lines—
long-necked funny unlived Em playing with rage and form, dying tired without me,
alone

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