The pond had become a meadow
lush with its own dying: a gristle
of lilies and milfoil, a shallow pan
of wither. So little rain had fallen
that summer. The brook, a small canyon
of mud, bisected the meadow-pond,
unflowing, barely wet.
In this trench
a snapping turtle foundered, groping
at the world. I was sixteen.
I walked up to it, crouched and stared.
The thing had no choice but to suffer me.
It looked so awkward and tired
I couldn't imagine how it would lift
the heavy stone of itself
and move on.
Ten years later,
Sunday of a wet October,
I was trying to cross the brook a half-mile
upstream, and when I reached a foot
to take the second step of my crossing
my stepping-place moved: it was a turtle.
Immediately, as if no time at all had passed,
I wondered if this could be that same snapper.
Their lives span decades
and the brook isn't big. I thought:
it might be. Ten years and here we were,
each of us having wandered
just this far, each of us
this half-mile closer to the source.
I kept my balance and watched
as the creature moved away upstream,
green-black under the water,
gliding its bony mountain
effortlessly through the flood.
© 2008 Electronic