Octopus, missing one leg, as drawn by my nephew.

An octopus will eat its own arms if it gets bored enough.
When I encounter Snoozy The Octopus I think of Octonauts,
every weekday morning watching my nephew dance to the theme song
as the sun pours through the window.
There is a part in the song where a turnip pops up on the screen and yells “turnip!”

and he laughs, curls bobbing around his face.
The sun catches his blue eyes as he looks from me to the t.v.
I always think of that part with the turnip
when I hear a song by Usher.The lyric is actually “turn up”
but I can’t help thinking of a cartoon turnip appearing in the music video.

I used to watch music videos every morning before school with my best friend.
I always wondered if he felt uncomfortable seeing scantily clad women so early
in the morning, until one day on our hike up the hill to school
when he told me he was gay. I felt bad for assuming he wasn’t.
But when I was a kid I used to watch music videos with my sister

and I would point out the girls I thought were pretty.
She told me I was supposed to be pointing out the hot guys.
Everyone tells my 7 year old nephew he will be a heartbreaker. What girl
won’t love those glassy blue eyes?
I bet his brother would love Snoozy.

He loves octopuses —
Octopuses or octopi?
We saw them at the aquarium in Atlanta once
after we had driven to Florida and stayed for a week over spring break.
Have you ever been depressed on the beach?

I don’t mean sad,
I mean actually depressed.
Like you didn’t really want to get out of bed that morning, could break down in tears
at any moment, sitting by the pool saying you don’t feel right, the damage is already done
you’ve been crying silently in bed every night kind of depressed?

But the aquarium is cool.
It isn’t quite as cool as the one I went to in California
when I was 17 and falling in love.
That’s the time I went whale watching and realized
just how big a whale really is.

A far cry from my 5 year old self who watched
“Free Willy” on repeat and told people I wanted to grow up to be a whale farmer.
Yeah, not a whale trainer, a whale farmer.
I wanted to have a farm on the ocean with a lot of animals so I could
draw and paint them, write about them.

When do we give up on our art?
Is it when everyone tells us it isn’t practical?
Because in the living room looking at my nephew watching a cartoon, I hope for him.
I hope he is a storyteller, a word warrior armed with his trusty pencil
I hope he is a lover of color who spreads thick coats of bright paint everywhere he goes

I hope he is a singer or a dancer or whatever he wants to be but I hope
when they tell him to give up on his art he won’t go down easy.
When they convince him it isn’t practical or safe, when they say he will be a starving
artist, I hope he chooses to starve for his art than to have a full belly but an empty
heart. How many artists starved and struggled for their craft?

Imagine how much art an octopus could make with all those arms.
They aren’t tentacles, they’re arms.
That is, of course, if they still had all their arms and hadn’t gnawed one off out of
boredom because they were squished into a tiny tank instead of being allowed to roam freely
on the ocean floor where they belong.

Is it like when Van Gogh cut off his own ear during a fight with Paul Gauguin?
Does the octopus remember eating its own arm or does it do it during
a time of such high stress it has an out of body experience?
Like the first time I ever got high. When I thought I had died because
I was lying on the couch watching chopped and everyone else

was in the kitchen maybe laughing, I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t hear them.
I thought I had died and I was here but, like, not really.
Most of that night is a blur but I still remember the blue marbled bowl we smoked out of.
They lit the mouthpiece with the lighter and let me go first because of my “germ thing.”
It isn’t really a germ thing you just never know where someone else’s mouth has been.

But during times of stress I’ve never had an out of body experience.
I wouldn’t chew off my arm or slice a chunk out of my ear.
Luckily, I haven’t given up on my art because
During times of high stress octopuses may eat an arm, and Van Gogh might cut off his ear
but me? I write. And I think some day I should finally make something worth starving for.

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