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An Octopus Changes Colors as She Sleeps, a poem by Jenny Kalahar

An Octopus Changes Colors as She Sleeps

This is news, but feels familiar.
I dream in colors, and now I’m sure
I, too, change colors as I dream.
I may be grass-green while sitting warm on a neighbor’s hillside
I would roll down before heading home
to a table full of loud brothers who made up their own, separate clan,
glad and not glad to break my solitude for the day.
Green, as naiveté still clung to the world.
Or brick red while dreaming of the last place I stood,
hidden in the holly bushes,
before the bell clanged overhead
on that day I didn’t go into school,
afraid of a teacher
who proclaimed she loved me and wished I loved her, too.
Brick red as my tiny fingers tried to dig
into the wall against my back.
Do I luminate into glassy, grey-green lake water
during images of nearly drowning as a girl
while my sturdy father,
not actually watching me,
stares cross-armed at nothingness on the farthest shore
that took a few more decades to fully swallow him down?
An octopus changes colors as she sleeps.
So her camouflage is subconscious, then.
Objects the mollusk placidly floats over transform her exterior
without a deliberate act to adapt,
without exerting an effort to hide in them, on them.
Nature did not offer this ability to humans,
but some of us have learned it all the same.

Jenny Kalahar is a novelist, poet, used & rare bookseller in central Indiana. She is the Premier Poet of the Poetry Society of Indiana (2022-2025), and is the editor and publisher of Last Stanza Poetry Journal.