Poetry Season #4 – Tortoise

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The fourth piece of homework for the Andy Jackson course. The prompt for this week, greatly summarised, is “otherness”, which could mean, for instance, the world of an animal. In my case, a tortoise. Did you know that a tortoise called Harriet, supposedly collected by Charles Darwin in the Galapagos, reached the age of 175 years and died in Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter)’s Australia Zoo in 2006. And the first living creatures to orbit the moon were a pair of tortoises, in the Russian Zond 5 mission. This is the second poem I’ve written about tortoises in recent months. Analyse that.

Tortoise

His clawed feet bear the weight of his world. He cares nothing for the impatience of youth. He is the original testudo. His skeleton is within and without. His scales proclaim his longevity. Breathing out, he retreats into his nerve-rich shell. He draws water from the well of his own waste. Smelling with his mouth, pumping air with his throat, he sifts sensations with nostrils and tongue. He has sub-sonic conversations with his neighbours. He circled the moon in Zond 5. His black eyes are picture pools of dark corners and warm concealments. His thoughts are antique. He knew Darwin and Irwin. He is utterly grounded. He holds the weathered memories of a century of deliberation. He hides his contentment behind a doleful mouth. He craves little – not affection, not food, but sometimes deep, cyclical sleep. I can promise food, water, shelter and warmth. I know his greatest fear is inversion. He disdains my bulk, my neediness, my hasty heart. He will outwait us all. His lines are not from worry. His tortoiseshell is not from vanity.

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© Mike Hopkins 2019

9 thoughts on “Poetry Season #4 – Tortoise

  1. I love this poem, Mike. It’s already one of my favourites of yours (and it has some stiff competition!) I’ve now gone back and had a look at the others prompted by the course – it looks like Andy’s doing a great job of inspiring and instructing. Really wish I’d signed up for it!

  2. I’m not sure Mr T would ever employ you as a publicity agent “drawing water from well of…” indeed.!

    P

    On Fri, 8 Feb 2019 at 09:16, mistakenforarealpoet wrote:

    > mike hopkins posted: ” The fourth piece of homework for the Andy Jackson > course. The prompt for this week, greatly summarised, is “otherness”, which > could mean, for instance, the world of an animal. In my case, a tortoise. > Did you know that a tortoise called Harriet, supposedl” >

  3. Wonderful creatures, and a thoughtful penetrating look at them in your lines. Like you, I’ve found them fascinating, and have two tortoise poems in the Galapagos section of my South American book ‘Of Llamas and Piranhas’. If you’re interested, I’ll email them to you.

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