Wednesday, November 6, 2013

POEM: Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

An animal of minimal means,
He owes no frog,
He holds no debt.
For travel, he’s a mobile home.
For music, he’s a metronome.
He’s blissful in a bog
And wet.

Counting time in a snarl of greens,
He cara-paces,
Ages slow.
In summer, he’s too somber to snap.
In winter, sleeps in a muddy gap.
His blood thinks,
His dream says,

© 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

A note of scientific interest:
My daughter and I recently spent time with a biologist from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and learned a good deal about our local snapping turtles. While snappers live about 50 years at the extreme—nowhere near as long as the Gal├ípagos tortoise—they hibernate by burying themselves in mud and leaves and by slowing their bodies so that their hearts beat once every few minutes. They don't need much oxygen in this state, absorbing it from pond water through specialized skin cells just inside the tail opening. In essence, they "breathe" through their tails. Freshwater turtles can stay like this for two or three months! The more details like this I learn about a subject, the more I want to include in a poem. My ear is the judge, as I always strive toward musicality. If a word doesn't sound right to me, if it doesn't harmonize with (or counterpoint) every other word, then it's best left out, or kept in prose.


Diane Mayr said...

A masterful pun, Steven, and an overall crackin' good poem!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Thanks for the wonderful poem AND the scientific note - I had no idea snapping turtles lived that long, or that they slowed down their living in this way.Interesting!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Awesome poem! How fascinating that they can slow their hearts to beat once every few minutes and breathe through their tails during hibernation.

Joy said...

Great presentation of scientifically accurate information.

Liz Steinglass said...

There's so much here to admire. Your language as always snaps.

Robyn Hood Black said...

He "cara-paces" - Ha! Love it. And the first line, and the last line, and pretty much the lines in the middle too. Thanks for sharing!

Ruth said...

I agree with what others have said, and I like the form, too.

Liana Mahoney said...

Fun poem, and really great musicality, too. We are always rescuing these turtles from our dirt road in the spring. You have to respect an animal whose jaw is powerful enough to snap a broom handle in half. But the way they are adapted for harsh winters is respect-worthy, too. Thanks for sharing your fun poem!