notes on terms of surrender to the cephalopods

Allison Casey


  1. An octopus cannot live on land for more than a few minutes. (Any longer and gills collapse, mantle heaves, a cleaving attempt to grasp at spare oxygen through skin. It would have to search for a trail of wet, all the while risking the soft, wilting cuticles of its suckers.) But last year, two dozen octopuses (!) crawled out of the sea. (They slung their sighted tentacles over sand and shells, arms unfolding like every nightmare, dark-corner monster I hoped wasn’t real.)
  2. Octopuses do not create and dwell in family units. Both the male and female die soon after mating. The female dies immediately after the eggs hatch. (She has not left them through the entire incubation. She dies exhausted; starving.) The male, a few months after the mating. Life is solitary for these animals which scientists agree are the smartest of invertebrates. There is no official term for a group of octopuses. (Yet.) Last year, researchers discovered a second (!) “octopus city” (!). They named it Octlantis, to partner the one discovered in 2009, Octopolis. Octopuses are now forming colonies (!). (They wandered coral reefs for miles and then met, tentacles drifting in deep-sea current to pantomime handshakes, hat-tips, how-do-you-dos.)
  3. There are many theories as to why the octopuses have been changing their behaviors in recent years. The leading explanation is climate change – warmer water temperatures. (Our world softens in the sun. Our grip fades. There is land ripe for the taking, if these invertebrates can learn how to safely use their suction on it. There is a world ready to be claimed by the next, and they are coming together in committees to mark it for them. Humans superiority is a slippery thing and all it takes is one waver for our topping of the food chain to topple.)
  4. (A question to our near-future, hyper-learning octopus overlords: What do you know that we don’t?) (Will our oxygen thin? Will we shed this planet for some different distance from the sun? Will our bodies litter the sand, the shells, the shore of the sea? Will your mouths adapt to grind our bones?)
  5. (It is well past time for some other species to have a shot at this.)



Allison Casey is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at Rutgers Camden. A New Jersey native, Allison received her BA in English and Certificate in Creative Writing from Rutgers New Brunswick. While her first and second loves are her cat and coffee, respectively, poetry comes in at a close third. Her work has been published in Occulum Journal, Moonchild Magazine, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry.