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Chelonian Rhapsody

 
If some accident of evolution had led reptiles to develop a neocortex while maintaining their nonexistent child-rearing habits, they might have ended up writing powerful verse about some other deep-seated biochemical urge—temperature regulation, say—but there would be no love sonnets in the reptile canon.
—Steven Johnson, Discover magazine
 
To drag out of my burrow on a cloudy day,
barely warmth enough inside my shell
 
to burn the fat that fuels my limbs, stiff
as logs from sunless sleep. To spy a gap
 
between the trees, and watch space-time
run until the clouds crack open,
 
and the sun swims free. To feel its fire
bake down, making my shell glow,
 
my brain become a sun that simmers
like the fusion-farms where we raise
 
snails, worms, lettuce, grapes. To let
June heat swell in me like the urge
 
to mate when a high-shelled beauty
drags by, urine-scent sweeter
 
than dewberries in rain—to feel
that heat, which powers flight between
 
the stars, return me to the time when Old
Turtle worshipped the sun, before
 
we learned the science of eternal life,
shoved lesser beings off extinction’s
 
cliff, and owned the world—alone
with the machines we build for company.
 
To let solar winds fan me into a flame
of praise, then, drawn to some pond’s
 
sheen, let my legs swim me down
as in the ancient, hibernating days,
 
dark waters closing like my birth-egg
around my dimming dreams.