Thursday, December 23, 2010


Now I see it--
it nudges with its bulldog head
the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble;
and now it noses along in the wake of the little brown teal

who is leading her soft children
from one side of the pond to the other; she keeps
close to the edge
and they follow closely, the good children--

the tender children,
the sweet children, dangling their pretty feet
into the darkness.
And now will come--I can count on it--the  murky splash,

the certain victory
of that pink and gassy mouth, and the frantic
circling of the hen while the rest of the chicks
flare away over the water and into the reeds, and my heart

will be most mournful
on their account.  But, listen,
what's important?
Nothing's important

except that the great and cruel mystery of the world,
of which this is a part,
not to be denied.  Once,
I happened to see, on a city street, in summer,

a dusty, fouled turtle plodded along--
a snapper--
broken out I suppose from some backyard cage--
and I knew what I had to do--

I looked it right in the eyes, and I caught it--
I put it, like a small mountain range,
into a knapsack, and I took it out
of the city, and I let it

down into the dark pond, into
the cool water,
and the light of the lilies,
to live.

In denying death, we refuse life.   I didn't always know this.  As a child I mourned for the animal children of the world, and so became a bird veterinarian.  I could not bear to lose one beauty to anything, for all loss was deemed cruel to me.  Then came a time when not only could I not end the curse of death, but was the cause of it.

In my bird clinic in Guatemala I was taking care of a Grey Hawk who had been shot, and a Pygmy Kingfisher who had been poisoned.  I fumed at my own kind who had done such deeds!  As they were wild birds I had to separate them from our aviary birds, so I placed them in separate cages in quarantine - our bathroom.  It was such a small space for prey and predator to share.  One day, the minute kingfisher flew out from cage through the bars, and into the talons of the hawk.  In the attempt to save, I had set up the circumstances of death. 

So too Mary with the saving of her turtle. So too us all as we step out unto the day to live.

What is your place in setting up circumstances of death?

1 comment:

  1. As a youngster I loved the turtles I caught that lived in our lake. I decided to build a habitat suited to their needs instead of bringing them into my environment in the cottage as I had done in the past. In the shade of a big old Oak I placed cinder blocks for their enclousure. I provided them with a pan dug into the sand so they could get in and swim in a limited space. I stocked the pan with minnows for them to eat as well as some turtle food from the store and some dead flies I had caught. I placed grass clippings in one corner and a pile of leaves in another for them to burrow into which they seemed to like doing. The next morning I went out before breakfast to see my five or six turtles and found that I had accomplished only feeding the raccoons the night before. They left me with only the shells of the turtles.