Turtles

AUTHOR UNKNOWN

Poem obtained by Clay A. Johnson and posted 16 October 1995 on the CTURTLE listserve; 
original author unknown, no record found through extensive web search

It was the weather that drove us in,
that rainy afternoon in May.
And the weather, I suppose, that drew us out.
Cold and shivery, unprotected,
gulping draughts of salt night air,
amazed at clouds and the moistness of it all;
Our bare feet rejoiced at pebble and leaf,
grateful for the grit between our parched toes
and the unmerciful touch of rain.
We knew the sadness of walls,
the cold consistency of ceilings,
the dumb flatness of floors;
We knew the shrill insistence of right angles,
perfect squares, and well drawn lines;
We knew the slow steady sweep of the electric clock,
and we grew quiet.
No small wonder, then, with sense withdrawn,
that beach, and sea, and air at first
were numb and dull to me
Or rather We to them,
Shocked without the shells that encased us blind.
Tumbling as from sleep,
we widened at the delicious randomness
of sea clump, dark sea oat, lone driftwood
and the unending conversation of surf.
We grew giddy with space,
toes tracing the sensual curve of ocean’s edge,
skin drunk with salt, wet, and sand,
until, sea-tossed, wind strewn, and scatterbrained,
we became whole again.
Something in the moon, or wind, or water,
or none of these, something older
and more removed from the sounding waves,
this beaten shore, the hard edged shells
that prick and stab into the present;
Something deep, primordial, an ancient call
she answered, and left her weightless world
for the uncertainty of the shore.
How heavy the burden of herself became,
the massive shell, the tapered limbs
that scratched and clawed
for purchase in the too forgiving sand.
She alone knew,
and alone she bore, amidst the shadowy terrors
of an alien world seen through eyes already tearing.
We watched her, breathless, perform the rite;
marveled at her cloze-lidded patience, her energy,
the thick head that nodded slow acceptance
of utter exhaustion, the unrelenting will
that rendered her oblivious to all
save her pearly charges’ burial.
We fondled her leathery skin,
Gazed into her eyes admired the thickness of her
wrinkled neck, and thought deeply
of the soft expression on her darkened face.
The deed was done, the sand replaced.
She joined the sea again,
And we waded with her to the edge of our world,
saw her graceful form retreat into the darkness.
In silence, we filled her clumsy tracks,
Erased all trace of what we’d seen,
And dreamed of another cosmic night
when sand shall scatter, and the sea
shall open up her arms to turtle minions.

Photo Courtesy of Barbara Broadbent

Photo Courtesy of Barbara Broadbent