I am a turtle.

As my friend’s father said tonight to me, “you are a turtle; you carry your home on your back.”  My friend said the same a few days ago.  And so, since it is late, and my friend is here, and her son is here and sick with a fever…..I will post a poem I wrote some weeks ago, while at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I have been in jail

I say, I have been in jail,

and the slow sweet paddle

of the turtle releases me.

Its hind legs reach through the water.

Coy, in bright orange pass it by,

And the turtle paddles,

pushing its head abvoe

above, always above,

clasping its shelter to itself.

Sweet, round, soft

flesh of its head

breaking surface.

Sun kissing the wet inch as it

crosses the great depths.

The pull and push of the turtle,

the slow effort shows me my yearning,

shows me:

I could be dying;

I am dying;

and, the wonder of this moment

takes me out of my slow decay.

Turtles in a still topple lay

one on two and two on three.

They create a sculpture made of rock

until one remembers its legs

are splayed out indecorously

and shyly pulls them in again,

modest and slow.

A small turtle, to scratch an itch,

shifts and suddenly a plop pulls my attention

to the upredictability

even when faced with a stone

plopped in the water by

the hands of giant children,

careless and yet beautiful in the result.

Because the turtles come

and make it beautiful,

people who live busy lives

of busy days with clocks and watches

and things to do and television shows…

the wonder captures them too.

One man saw the small turtle fall

and laughed in delight.

He wanted to plop in too,

I could tell.

A Spanish speaking family

walks past and the mother exclaims

to excite her child’s interest, “tecitas, tecitas!”

That must be turtle in Spanish, and it makes

them sound as happy as I feel to see them.

Someone notices death –

the wonder is that no one noticed sooner.

The bright orange glass of one dead fish

curled on its side, breaking surface, catches

the sunlight and shines.

But no one noticed death’s glimmer,

so enraptured in the stone that

holds the turtles, the turtles with

their stone-colored limbs and

moss-covered stone-colored shells,

and the sunken eyes that open

one at a time, and close a slow syncopation.


A new life.

No matter how much you want it, when you choose to change your life, expect it to be more difficult than you imagine, and expect it to cost a lot more than you want it to.  That sounds like advice.  I guess it is, but it’s really a revelation.  Revelations are funny things, because when you tell someone else a revelation they have an “oh, of course,” moment; but when you are in the midst of the revelation, it’s just hard.  At least, it has been for me.  So far, I’ve spent at least twice as much money as I wanted….and everything has been hard.  Things have just been hard.  They’ve been hard because everything I’m doing is new.  I don’t know how to get to the CVS from where I am; all of my belongings are in bags or boxes and I haven’t had a cup of my favorite tea in about a week, maybe more.  These are small things, I know, but when everything you do in a day, from taking a shower, to scanning a document, to making a cup of tea, is new, and you have to ask someone else, it’s hard.  But, so far, a month into my adventure, with everything being hard, and all of the complaints I have running through my mind at any moment, I wouldn’t go back.  Not yet.  We’ll see what I say about that in a few weeks, or months.  In the meantime, this is a beginning.  An inelegant beginning to be sure, but a beginning nontheless.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you what this is all about.  In the meantime, sleep well, and try something hard.