Julie Larios

Woman with the Beak of an Octopus


She has become almost human, having been a creature
of the sea, multi-armed, dependent on saltwater,
and on certain tidal patterns and marine behavior.

Though she has become almost human, her skeleton is new,
inflexible and strange to her. What she still doesn’t know
about air she is trying hard to learn, with neurons

numbering in the billions now, gills gone, her new brain
localized and voluminous. For years, her arms had been
conscious entities, self-directed. That was before the bones

began to grow and the outer mantle to thin, before
the siphon closed. By choice, she left the shallow floor
of the ocean and began to move closer in to shore,

pulled by a changeable sky and the marvel of human sound.
The idea of seasons charmed her, as did the sun and moon,
and her desire for non-attachment trumped the art of suction.

All that is left is to form a human mouth from her beak.
Soon now, she will forget the ink sac, forget how to breathe
underwater, how to forage below the surface, how not to speak.

In form, she will be human, though whenever she passes
a large window, believing it to be liquid, her heart will race
and her hands will be drawn, inexplicably, toward the glass.


“Woman with the Beak of an Octopus” originally appeared in The Indiana Review in a slightly different form. You might enjoy comparing the effect of the prose-poem structure to the lineated version, above.


Julie Larios has published poems in many reviews including Field, Threepenny Review, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and The Atlantic. She also publishes books for children (two of them illustrated by Seattle artist Julie Paschkis) and recently wrote the libretto for a penny opera titled “Three Acts of a Sad Play Performed Entirely in Bed” with music by composer Dag Gabrielson as part of the New York City Opera’s VOX Festival. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award and has been published twice in The Best American Poetry.


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