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The Tortoise

takes it personally

when called a Turtle

scantily referred to

in poetic lore;

remembered

as a laggard,


for its excessive

longevity

over one-and-a-half times

a centenarian,


seeing kings and

kingdoms fall,

new countries

arise

from the smoky

dissipation

of war. Surviving both Castro

and the Queen

and a dozen-plus

Presidents

in-between.


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

meme;


and you recall

when it was new,

these devices for

distant speaking,


hand-cranked,

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

moments

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

problem

and a homophone

of hair,


getting

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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