by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, March 2018
Judged by C. Wade Bentley

They don’t touch as they battle,
the males in their dance of dominance

until only one is left to gather
the female into his tentacles,

wrap his extra arms around her as he pulls her
into his den, face to face, massaging her egg sack

with his sperm. The sea rocks their bodies back and forth
to the rhythm of life being created, continuing,

flourishing in the w of their eyes as their colors waver
between light mottle, intense zebra then passing cloud.

The offspring drift off on the tide, translucent
against the turquoise blueness of the shallows,

cutting through the egg casing, eating shrimp larvae,
growing until they bleed into the sandy bottom,

the limestone rocks, the coral, the seaweed
as they ambush the unsuspecting crab or fish.

When the fisherman’s net scoops them skyward
they turn startled deimatic, flaming red stars

rising through the brine. The restaurateurs
slice through the blanched flesh with their filet knives,

paring the most succulent pieces from the bone
for the risotto al nero di seppia the waiters

present their loyalest customers, those whose rings
glisten anciently in the muted light as if

they were cast five hundred years ago in de Medici gold
poured between the hollowed out bones of a cuttlefish.

I didn’t know that I wanted to know cuttlefish so intimately, but I feel richer for having read this poem. I’m reminded of Elizabeth Bishop’s fish poem, in which the poet has observed the creature so closely that the poem moves naturally beyond pure description and allows each of us to experience a thing as if for the first time. And then we pull back to a wide shot in those perfect final couplets. --C. Wade Bentley