One way in which poetry has the power to grace our lives is by existing in fragments — a line or two of verse that you can’t forget, a well phrased image you came up with when you saw something striking, your favorite lyrical sentence from a book you read that opened you up to something new. So much of what we have retained of ancient poetry exists in fragments, too, and those pieces inspire poets to respond, as was the case in my prose-poem “Sappho’s Torque” — but more about that tomorrow.
One of the ways I want to celebrate National Poetry Month this year is by acknowledging these benevolently intrusive snippets of lyric, and so some of the posts this month will be of fragments. I invite you to respond to this post with a fragment of your own — either one you’ve written, or one you can’t easily forget. Today’s fragment comes from a random occurrence I experienced this afternoon, but first, some backstory…
My husband and I used to keep turtles, many years ago. We had a juvenile red-eared slider, very common in our part of the world, named Portia and a softball-sized box tortoise named Sebastian who used to eat cantaloupe and honeydew slices from my hand. We don’t have them anymore, which is a long story for another day, but when we did, they lived in a charming courtyard my husband had built for them which had a variety of plant life, a pond with a gravel beach, a waterfall fountain made from a huge pile of flagstones one of our neighbors was giving away, a tiny coliseum for Sebastian’s live cricket feeding time, and — one year — about ten thousand tadpoles which became about a dozen overnight because Portia got hungry. Portia used to stretch out on the dry flagstones and sun herself, and if you’ve never seen a turtle stretch its limbs out, put it on your bucket list. She’d put her front feet together as if she were going to make an Olympic dive into the pond and then her back legs fanned out so her body made a somewhat bulbous A-shape. She’d lift her face up to the sun and just hang out like that for hours.
In that neighborhood where we used to live, red-eared sliders were plentiful, because the subdivision had a couple of golf courses running through it and there was a wetlands/nature preserve for birds nearby. During turtle mating season it wasn’t unusual to see mature turtles migrating across the golf course, through people’s yards, and into the residential streets.
While driving through this neighborhood today, I happened upon a red-eared slider in the road, a big one about the size of a dinner plate. I stopped my car and picked it up and relocated it to the middle of the closest front yard — pointed toward the backyard, so that it could meander toward it and to the golf course on the other side, from which I’m reasonably certain it came. I’ve rescued more than a few turtles from these roads.
So, the fragment… This stanza is from a longer poem I wrote entitled “Small Things,” which is in my collection Playing House (publication date coming soon).
hatchling turtles now
leap from flagstone cliffs
in your makeshift pond
And here are some photos of today’s renegade turtle, before and after rescue.