Perspective, the poetry of perspective.

It is the best way to live. But with our creaturely capacity for wonder comes a responsibility to it — the recognition that reality is not a singularity but a plane. As soon as we assume we see the whole, it tilts ever so slightly, opening up new views of truth, new horizons, and mystery. We are stunned when we realise that we only saw a small part of what was actually there. Our species’ history is one of forgetting, learning, and then relearning the elemental truth.

These were the thoughts swimming through my point of mind while composing the poem I contributed to the 40th anniversary issue of the oasis of wonder that is Orion Magazine — a poem distilling in its handful of stanzas what The Universe in Verse has been inviting and celebrating all these years: the poetry of perspective.

Art by TK Orion Magazine

Accompanying the poem in the magazine is a breathtaking watercolor interpretation by artist and immigrant rights activist TK, born in Vietnam and based in Philadelphia — my own first home in America as a young immigrant — who somehow summons, without ever having known it, the working title of the poem: “Octopus Blues.”

by Maria Popova

The bottom of everything is you
Where the water is that makes
    this planet a world
        is the color of spacetime

the octopus —

Her body-shaped brain
Her eight-arm embrace
    of alien realities,
With her colorblind eyes
    sightful of polarized light
And her inexplicable amazement
    lidless eye —

        can see

Shades of blue that we can’t imagine.

You can call it God.
    if you must
The homely is the best!
The holiness of God is something to be pondered
    of the fathomless whole.

    And meanwhile,
Up here
    we swim amid particles
It is impossible to perceive
    folded into dimensions
It is impossible to imagine.

Stories about
    what is real and
    what is possible,
What it means to be.

Just a moment ago
We thought that the Octopus was hilarious.
This is what we were thinking when we saw this blue world
        below three hundred fathoms
until in 1898 —
    an epoch after Bach
    scribbled in the margin
        of a composition
            “Everything that is possible is real” —
We inserted our prosthetic eyes.
    deep into the blue
And found the universe of all life.

The octopus
    godless and possible,

Is one of her hearts broken?
        for us
Our impossible blues and more

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Over the past decade, I spent hundreds of hours and thousands each month writing. MarginalianThe magazine, which bore for fifteen years the unsettling name Brain Pickings. The site has survived despite being ad-free, and thanks to readers’ patronage it is still free. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. Donations are a great way to make your life better. It makes a huge difference to support this cause.

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