We use ink for writing. They use it to fool predators.
         —Sy Montgomery

For it can change color and shape.

For it can taste with its skin.

For it has a beak like a tropical bird,
venom like a snake,
and ink like my pen.

For it can "pour" a 100-pound body
through an opening smaller
than my fist.

For it is unlike any other creature,
and even its genome reveals its uniqueness
on a planet we continue to believe our own.

For more than one should be octopuses,
not octopi, for its name is not Latin, but Greek,
and has been in our language for centuries.

For we must accept our long awareness of it,
and attention to it,
and our native language as one
among many, no better or worse.

For though Victor Hugo wrote
that it has innumerable hideous mouths,
and that it sucks your life-blood away,
don't be fooled.

For though the largest on record was 300 pounds
with an arm span of 32 feet,
and would have been stronger than many men,
it reveals remarkable intelligence,
and even, as we say, personality.

For a pink one with large eyes
has been discovered,
and has been given the name
Opisthoteuthis adorabilis,
so we may adore it.

For some of its species socialize,
and some make love
in the same positions we favor.

For it can recognize an individual human,
and rise up to embrace him.

For it can solve complicated puzzles,
and escape places we believe
we construct for its own good,
merely because it is curious
to know what lies beyond.

For though we last shared an ancestor
half a billion years ago,
I will not eat it
even though I eat other creatures,
and so am inconsistent.

For Thoreau believed a foolish consistency
is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored
by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.


For I wonder if Thoreau ever met
or wrote about the octopus,
and if he did, whether it fooled him
or embraced him.