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The Tortoise

takes it personally

when called a Turtle

scantily referred to

in poetic lore;


as a laggard,

for its excessive


over one-and-a-half times

a centenarian,

seeing kings and

kingdoms fall,

new countries


from the smoky


of war. Surviving both Castro

and the Queen

and a dozen-plus



You’ve endured,

dear tortoise,

all of your animal friends

(if indeed you had any)—

and at funerals:

always the deathmaid,

never the death.

You were there,

creeping over a log

when the Wrights learned

how to fly, then

awkwardly stretching

your wrinkled neck

to see the moon

in ’69;

and still, as the unburied

decay and scatter,

you linger, freeze-

framed around the world

by an iPhone’s mocking


and you recall

when it was new,

these devices for

distant speaking,


then dialed numerically.

Only the trees

can tell your tale,

that you once

were young and spry,

plodding a quarter-

foot a minute

while the wild west

was won,

spending evanescent


within your crusty shell,

that you were

far more sociable

than we think,

a jokester by the pond,

and yes, you were the one

that bested

the rabbit’s

cocksure cousin,

one with a similar


and a homophone

of hair,


little respect,

shamed by losing a

race so long ago—

that to you was merely

yesterday, your single

instance of glory,

the only act to outlive

your endless aging.

Andreas Gripp

November 7, 2023

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