my arm in the tank up to my elbow,
a sudden shock of cold and then
his tentacles are wrapping around my forearm –
each suction cup operating independently

an alien intimacy –
alarming at first, then oddly comforting,
like wearing a thunder shirt during a storm

gentle but firm, he explores –
he may know more about me
than I know about him

changing from a dull gray to a rosy hue
he is like a watery bloom –
Chinese flowering tea blossoming in a glass pot

this brief encounter in his small tank
may be his only enrichment today

9 brains, 500 million neurons,
and three hearts –
     in case one breaks, are there two to spare?

the sea, only a block away,
is thrumming on the shore of the bay –
     first heartbeat, first home

then, the sudden thought, his or mine:
     all we need is 20 minutes and a bucket





Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. She has worked as a landscaper, apple picker, library assistant, travel agent, and social worker, and volunteered for several years at a wildlife rehab center caring for resident raptors and wolves. She draws most of her inspiration from nature – the garden, the wilderness, and wildlife. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Allegro, Windfall, Turtle Island Quarterly, Otoliths, and Canary. Her first collection of poetry, What Remains, was published by Flowstone Press in October 2021.

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