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On March 22, the Lewis & Clark community celebrated the inauguration of teacher-poet Mary Szybist as the Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities.

As part of the event, Szybist read several of her poems, including this one from Incarnadine, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry.

The Lushness of It

Mary Szybist

It’s not that the octopus wouldn’t love you—
not that it wouldn’t reach for you
with each of its tapering arms.

You’d be as good as anyone, I think,
to an octopus. But the creatures of the sea,
like the sea, don’t think

about themselves, or you. Keep on floating there,
cradled, unable to burn. Abandon
yourself to the sway, the ruffled eddies, abandon

your heavy legs to the floating meadows
of seaweed and feel
the bloom of phytoplankton, spindrift, sea
spray, barnacles. In the dark benthic realm, the slippery nekton
glide over the abyssal plains and as you float you can feel
that upwelling of cold, deep water touch
the skin stretched over
your spine. No, it’s not that the octopus
wouldn’t love you. If it touched,

if it tasted you, each of its three
hearts would turn red.

Will theologians of any confession refute me?
Not the bluecap salmon. Not its dotted head.

Mary Szybist, “The Lushness of It,” from Incarnadine. Copyright © 2013 by Mary Szybist. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,

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