Aqua tanks brim with phosphorescence.
Mantles fold and unfold
like flower petals in soft rain.
Diaphanous dancers flutter
flicker and float. An extravaganza
garbed in neon pinks and yellows,
dots and stripes. Magentas.
Midnight blues and blacks.
Ghostly gossamer whites.
Whiskers and spikes.
We met the sea’s full majesty
when we finally arrived
at the empty Octopus tank.
Inky was long gone. Like El Chapo,
he had crawled away in darkest night.
Sea life keepers discovered
Inky’s break-out at dawn.
Splotches on the floor traced his path out
to a simple drainpipe.
Pipe to bay. Bay to ocean.
No one knows when his plot began.
Curvaceous and clever,
eyeing a tiny hole in the mesh,
he might have been charting
new territories for months.
Maybe some long nights
he just slid over to the next tank.
Snacked on some clump fish,
took in the scene. Oozed back home.
Or perhaps he just watched floors washed,
mops wrung, water disappearing down.
Calculated distances. Drew the mind map.
I like to imagine Inky
encouraging his glassed- in pals
to join him. Arguing for mass escape.
Perhaps he knew other routes as well.
Bigger drains. Grander pipes.
He would have described
the vastness of the unbound sea –
coral reefs, sunken ships, shiny plankton,
crab-filled fishing boats.
Invertebrates sweeping free
into open water blueprints.
And then, having failed to lure them,
I can see Inky bending and slipping,
curling and twisting, writhing and wiggling,
evidence trailing along with him,
saying his final goodbyes.
*Inky, an Octopus the size of a soccer ball, lived at the National Aquarium of New Zealand until he escaped from the facility in 2016. Aquarium staffers said that he slipped through a small gap at the top of his tank, traveled eight feet across the floor and slid down a 164-foot pipe leading to Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of North Island. New York Times, April 14, 2016 (A8).
Mary K O’Melveny, a recently retired labor rights attorney, lives in Washington DC and Woodstock, NY. Her poetry has appeared in various print and on-line journals, including Allegro Poetry Magazine, GFT Press, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, The Offbeat and Into the Void. Mary’s poem “Cease Fire” won the 2017 Raynes Poetry Competition. Her poetry chapbook “A Woman of a Certain Age” will be published in September, 2018 by Finishing Line Press.