A note from the author: The publication of "Cleaning the Octopus" in the North American Review brought about the delightful experience of a young man contacting me because he had found the poem online while researching Octopuses for some school paper he was writing.
Cleaning the Octopus"
Flat of palm, then fine-boned fingers
break the mirror surface,
beckon the creature below
to let go its hold on the rough stone.
Slowly its knobby arms open,
exposing the mouth
to receive hand's offering.
That's how it begins, the dance.
Tentacle tips curl around pale digits
that sway like upside-down anemone,
coaxing the limp body off
its erstwhile ocean floor, freeing it
for a duet of caress and release.
The fingers stroke each rubbery saucer,
nimbly flip aside the filmy aggregate
of weeks, months, years.
Even the veined web of skin,
joining bulbous sac
with reptilian shins,
is skimmed clean
causing it to flutter
like a veil in the wind,
its pale underside
Arlene Distler has spent most of her life as mother, journalist, and poet. She co-founded Write Action, a not-for-profit organization based in Brattleboro, Vermont, which seeks to "strengthen a community of writers" in the southern Vermont and tri-state region. She has been a freelance writer on the arts for fifteen years, publishing feature stories in various local, regional, and national publications. A graduate of Rhoder Island School of Design, during the past decade she has revived her painting practice and also taken up ceramics. In 2013 Arlene Distler published her first book of poetry, a chapbook, with Finishing Line Press, titled Voices Like Wind Chimes. It includes "Cleaning the Octopus." She is currently working on a full-length poetry manuscript.