by David Graham

Sea Turtle

Deep in your oyster-size brain
is a hatred for sharks,
hunger for jellyfish and crabs,
perfect memory for the sands
of the hatching beach.

You're bad luck, with that barnacle mouth,
plucking ice age sponges
from bottom mud, nearsighted cooter
of the coral reefs.  They say
you drum a storm on boat decks.

But you'll die lunging after plastic bags,
jaw thick with fishhooks
you've eaten the bait from.
Your young will crawl toward the light
they think is moonlit sea--

pavement glittering with headlights.
A jeep will eat the eggs
ghost crabs cannot find.  You'll butt
your nose raw on aquarium walls,
snap dangled fingers like snailshells.

With breath so foul the shrimp-men gag,
a limitless gut, carapace
sharp to slice their nets
and free a day's catch, you're swimming
to beaches that have washed away.

They say turtle steak won't rest
in the pan, that it takes you
a week to die.  They have seen you,
three-legged from old shark bites,
climb crookedly out of the surf

straight into a poacher's machete.
They have seen you headless, dropping eggs.

-from David Graham's Magic Shows. Cleveland State University Poetry Center.  1986.