Terripan looking around


Last night we used him for a centerpiece.
Pet Rock. Rubbleman. Sepulcher Sam.
Our Brobdingnagian wit fazed him
not a bit. The wonder is that life informs
the carapace (big black and pumpkin chips),
the legs that tractor earth’s unevenness,
the serpentine head, at all.
Only the eye—and it a slit of semiprecious
light—looks other than conglomerate.

Having no place for shelf life
we keep him casually corralled
(Does he go snow-blind in the sink?),
include him in what we do.
But the household god steadfastly will not eat
our offerings of parsley, meat;
for hours holds head extended or a claw
as if reverted to his quarried
origins, the living rock.

Perhaps he’s trying to hibernate
in a winter our warmth will not provide.
Or refuses, always, to respond
for reasons of turtle dignity.
Or fears to be soup, or hopes to lithify
remembering how good it was in the Jurassic.
The life within withdrawn, he’s comatose—
or raptly attends some call we cannot hear.

Clearly we're tuned to different frequencies:
the elder species and the parvenu.
Today you put him out for air
in the turtletight backyard, returned
to find him–Allakhazam–not there.
And as he was elsewhere when among us,
now he is a presence in his absence.

John Barr

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