Octopus Empire

What if the submarine
is praying for a way
it can poison the air,
in which some of them have
leaped for a few seconds,
felt its suffocating
rejected buoyancy.
Something floats above their
known world leading a wake
of uncountable death.
What if they organized
into a rebellion?

Now scientists have found
a group of octopuses
who seem to have a sense
of community, who
live in dwellings made of
gathered pebbles and shells,
who cooperate, who
defend an apparent
border. Perhaps they’ll have
a plan for the planet
in a millennium
or two. After we’re gone.


Copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Nelson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Under the gloom cloud of what seems to be the planet's bleak future, for whose bleakness homo so-called sapiens is apparently solely responsible, I happened to see and read an article about the recent discovery in Australia's Jervis Bay of a large number of octopus tetricus which live in community, exhibiting complex social interactions. Playful marine biologists have dubbed the community ‘Octlantis.’ Reading the article gave me some hope for the planet. I've been trying to break my iambic pentameter habit by writing in syllabics.”
Marilyn Nelson