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Turtle

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
She can ill afford the chances she must take
In rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging 
A packing-case places, and almost any slope
Defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
She’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
To something edible. With everything optimal,
She skirts the ditch which would convert
Her shell into a serving dish. She lives
Below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
Will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
The sport of truly chastened things.

—Kay Ryan

From Flamingo Watching
Copper Beach Press, 1994

Copyright Kay Ryan.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Copper Beach Press. Copyright 1994 by Kay Ryan. For further permissions information, contact Copper Beach Press, P.O. Box 2578, Providence, RI 02906.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Kay Ryan (1945- ) served as the U.S Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2012. She is the author of eight poetry collections, including The Best of it: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press, 2010), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Ryan was born in 1945 in San Jose, California, and grew up in the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert.

Learn more about Kay Ryan.