Thursday, 5 June 2008


“They are ancient beings,
And they deserve to live,
I think.”

Teenagers slowed enough
So that we could see them roll their eyes
At our softness and sentimentality

Because we were in their way

Standing over a snapping turtle
Paused at a bend in the road
Running perilously through the
Saugatuck Reservoir.

How could we move him?

We tried with a stick
But no stick would rush this ancient being
As old as the rocks,
Timeless as the mud and mulch caked
On its barnacled back and feet paddling
The air like water.

What to do?
I picked up the snapping turtle
Whose four feet padded the air like water
And who craned his neck round to snap.

There was no sound, no clutch,
No fear.
The turtle must cross the road,
And who has time for fear?

Down on the black sponge of rotted leaves and needles
I placed the turtle
Facing the stream and the mud
That surely the turtle must want and

The sun shone hot on our backs—
Mine and the immigrant woman
Whose flailing arms in the road stopped me
Before I could see the ancient being crossing the tarmac.

It stopped
And turned round to face us
With a wide-open mouth like a baby
Searching in the dark for its mother’s breast
In the near satisfaction
That precedes deep sleep.