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The Octopus Of Imagination

By Sue Cowing

The octopus of imagination glides everywhere

without a skull, offers one gift with all

her rippling arms: water incarnate.

But we see only writhing suction, death squeeze, food.

Bagged, she goes sad in her sack, a wish out of water.


Looking for octopus, a marine from Pennsylvania

fell in the ocean off Wai‘anae, got sucked

into the Moi Hole’s underwater mouth.

Like those who didn’t die before him,

he found a ledge inside to crawl up onto,


a cave-form, air.  The wave that brought him in

dragged out, and again the chamber filled

chest high.  Voices over the echo of splash

and rock said panic. They must have said 

Don’t panic.  Clearer now: tide rising.
Ride the backwash. One way out.

Not a swimmer, he has to trust the water.

A wave comes in and he jumps blind.

He’s out the opening with a roar.

The jet-ski rescuers reach for him

three times with strong bronze arms

but miss.  He’s swallowed head first, sputtering,

back into the hole.


Air or water? He hurls himself again,

gives up to where the water goes.

Now the life-guards have him, hold his face

above the foam.  The waves dies down to glass.

No sign of octopus.





from “Medusa/Octopus,” Hawai‘i Review, Fall 1991

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