Midlife Crisis While Watching a Nature Program (Octopus marginatus)
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Midlife Crisis While Watching a Nature Program (Octopus marginatus)

On the one hand, look at all you've accomplished:career, house, children, money in the bank.Your life has taken a certain comfortable shapeand there isn't all that much you'd wish to change.On the other hand, you will never be a marine biologist,scanning the ocean floor with your submersible camera,on the lookout for an octopus walking on two legs.Your eyes will never widen behind your mask,and you will never gesture in slow-motionto your fellow marine biologist, the water champagningwith the excitement of your quickened breath,because you have just seen what looks like a coconutsauntering along the ocean floor with a purposeful stridethat makes you think of John Cleese with tentaclesand a coconut suit. No predator with a taste for sushiwill go after a coconut rolling along with the current,water-logged terrestrial junk, not worth a second glance.But your human heart goes out to the octopus:no bones, no spine, nothing but head and feet,and a brain devoted entirely to escaping notice—little sea-nerd on rubbery legs, pretending to be tough.You admire something so soft and determined,so adaptable. How wonderful not to mind [End Page 192] how ridiculous you look, to be self-containedlike an octopus. How much harder for humansto adapt. Especially now, when we are who we are,when we will never be marine biologists lookingin astonishment at the octopus disguised as a coconut—when we can only look out the window at the boatour middle-aged neighbor suddenly brought homewhen his wife had left him and his children had all grown up. [End Page 193]

Footnotes

This poem originally appeared in Red Cedar Review, Vol. 41, 2006.

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