After Mark Doty
A busy turtle can achieve a remarkable pace (turtle hurtles)
if he has an urgent appointment
with a green tomato (lying on the grass because
I flung it away from the garden –
it had a caterpillar eating a hole in its tender skin),
or with a mushroom swaying on a pithy stalk,
to gnaw chunks out of its ochre-dusted cap.
The water turtles line up on the half-submerged log
with their flat wide backs ripe to the sun.
When I approach, they wake
and plop into the bayou in a musical cadence.
I don’t see them for a minute,
then I glimpse their fast little legs
strumming the water, heads bobbing
above the tree-reflected surface.
In the sky, a hawk
swoops like a stunt pilot
on a level no turtle can see.
Once, yes, somehow, what is it about
a snapping turtle that feels entitled
to occupy the middle of the road?
He was a big hubcap fellow
both angry and embarrassed
about losing his way
which of course was not my way.
Have you lost your way?
“’I don’t know what you mean by your way,’
said the Queen: ‘all the ways about here
belong to me.’”
I was bigger but he had the panache
to claim the space.
A poke with a stick intimidated him
not the least.
In my heart, I had his welfare foremost.
He wanted to make his own decision.
Should I stand guard, bon tortou,
while you make your way across
the pavement? You know nothing
of mail trucks or delivery vans,
and ugly as you are, and determined,
and brooking no dissent
I love you.
Does a turtle dream of flight?
or only of the grass at the side of the road?
GURUPREET K. KHALSA is a current resident of Mobile, Alabama, having lived previously in Ohio, Washington State, India, New Mexico, and California. She is a former middle-school English teacher and holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Design. Partially retired, she is a part time professor for online graduate courses in Education.