Friday, September 18, 2015

Poetry Friday: Turtles

I posted here and here about our Open Mic events that we had here at school last year for National Poetry Month.  This school year we've decided to try monthly events, and then more frequent ones in April.  Yesterday was our first Open Mic of the semester, and though attendance was sparse at the beginning, by the end we had a nice little crowd.  I shared the following poem, written in 2013 about an experience I had with a friend.  I'm hoping that by our October gathering, I'll have some more recent offerings.  I've been writing a lot, but not much that I feel like sharing with a group. 

Meanwhile, this poem is non-fiction, and I've even illustrated it with portraits of the turtles.    


On the way to the store, we saw a turtle in the road.
You stopped the car and said I should move it
So I did, lifting it gently
By the sides of its yellow-splotched shell
And placing it in the grass.

I wouldn't say it seemed grateful, exactly,
But it ambled off into the trees,
No doubt to a happy future,
A sweet, docile turtle,
Rescued from the dangerous road.
We drove on,
Pleased by our neighborliness.
Today we saved a life, we said.

On the way home, we saw another turtle in the road.
Another chance for a good deed!
This one looked older, more weatherbeaten.
Its cracked shell studded with snails,
Along for the ride.
It had a tail worthy of a very small dinosaur.
And apparently, it didn't want to be moved,
Since when I picked it up,
It clawed my hand, drawing blood.
Startled and in pain,
I dropped the turtle on its already battered shell. 
It flipped itself over onto its feet again,
A prehistoric acrobat, fueled by anger.

You said you'd try, and approached it,
While it glared at you,
alert to your every move.
You offered it a stick, which it attacked,
Breaking it in half. 

This turtle, dancing with rage,
We left behind us.
Clearly it did not wish for rescue,
And we decided it was on its own.

A visit to Google later taught us
The difference between a box turtle and a snapping turtle,
And which one is best left alone.

But you'd think, wouldn't you,
That we'd have learned by our age to be a bit more wary?
That we'd already know something about what to pick up
And what to leave lying there on the road?
But we don't.  Whatever turtle is there,
We always try to help, get involved, handle it, mess with it,
The ones that wander off amiably
And the ones that wave their fearsome dinosaur tails.

Even now, nursing my wound,
I know that the next time I see a turtle in the road,
I'll rush naively to its rescue.

by Ruth, from

Here's today's roundup.


Linda B said...

Stories of your time with turtles tell a lot about you, too, Ruth: "We always try to help, get involved, handle it, mess with it". It has a wonderful voice and I imagine the audience enjoyed it. How great that you're expanding the open mic, fun all year!

Unknown said...

Beautiful, Ruth. I remeber the 'snapping turtles' from teh growing up on a farm in Missouri. they would leave the ponds in late summer when the weather was particularly dry. Some of them were huge, and my dad always warned that if the bit they wouldn't let go till lightening struck. I never saw a 'snapper' in the road, but would watch from a safe distance when I spotted one in the pasture. Box turtles and terrapins were a pretty common sight on the country roads and we often stopped to move tem out of harm's way.

Robbie Pruitt said...

So funny!

jama said...

We have several box turtles living in our yard -- we move them from time to time when they are in danger of getting run over (they like to use the driveway). Also had a snapping turtle once -- a big one, but we left it alone! Fun poem.

Tara said...

As Linda said, this poem is as much about turtles as it is about you - and how your kindness trumps self preservation.

Tabatha said...

Some turtles do seem particularly dinosaur-y, don't they? I like "prehistoric acrobat"!

Doraine said...

What a wonderful tale! Love you imagery.

Tricia said...

I enjoyed your poem. It says as much about your heart as it does the turtles. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Nice, Ruth. I especially love this: "Pleased by our neighborliness./Today we saved a life, we said." Isn't that the truth. We love to feel needed. Unfortunately, it's the people who act like snapping turtles that I really have problems with.

Irene Latham said...

Oh my goodness! The image that sticks with me is the snail-studded cracked shell. Love!

Violet N. said...

This is certainly about a lot more than turtles, Ruth, although it is eloquent about them. Thanks for this slant message about being a good neighbor, no matter who you're a neighbor too. (Love the photos too.)

Catherine said...

Years ago while I was walking my dog, we encountered a snapping turtle. He made it very clear he didn't want us anywhere near him, and his tail did look like that "of a small dinosaur!" Hope your wound healed without infection, and that you've steered clear of snapping turtles ever since.

Sarah SSM said...

I love this for so many reasons. Thank you.