Between the turn of the screw
And the twist of the knife
Between the Twist of the twister
And Dylan’s simple twist of fate
There sometimes arise opportunities
To own the life that was given us by our mothers
To make headway against
The semi generated wind of the highway of the one-way life.
Against the inherited trauma of my grandfathers and my father
Who, fresh out of their respective world wars,
Winged being fathers with broken wings, I actually
Thought the world would be kind to an escaped chicken!
But age brought second thoughts and I flew back into the coop
In the shadow of the mined-out mountain
On the edge of Hamburger Forest where the medicines
Were all bleeding into the fishy sea
Patrolled by giant nuclear stealth subs
With nothing better to do than stalk each other.
And while millions went starving under a full eclipse of the moon
Nation states played steal the flag and king of the hill.
But after all and in the time remaining
You’d think that someone would stop
(Besides me) for a turtle
Who is getting ready to cross the express way.
But we can’t stop can we
Because of all the reasons we just can’t stop
Eating sugar making war battling shadows
Like good little soldiers saluting
As rocket after rocket vibrates our brains to jello
As they crawl skyward gaining momentum
Against the weight of all the guilt and heartaches of civilization.
And they once called this Turtle Island.
On a recent epic drive from Vermont to North Palm Beach, FL, with two stops, one in NJ and one in VA, we were south of Augustine on route 95 when we passed a large turtle who was on the shoulder facing traffic, looking like he was contemplating a crossing. Right after passing the turtle there was an entrance to the expressway. We were traveling about 70 MPH but I couldn’t not stop, but, because of the entrance ramp I couldn’t safely pull to a stop for at least another 600 feet. The minute I stopped, (explaining my actions to Shirley, who was not quite sure that I was in my right mind), I was out the door, half walking, half running back to where I had spotted the turtle. It was still there, but even from a hundred feet away I sensed that something was wrong. Sure enough, when I was standing over it, I saw that the front of its thick shell was shattered and one of the fractures extended to the center of the dome of its shell. It had died facing the road and there were numerous tiny ants beginning the work of consuming it. It was a gopher turtle. I felt bad for it but was glad I stopped because I would have assumed it was alive and doomed if I hadn’t stopped.
There is a happy sequel to this story. Two days later we were at one of our favorite beaches and, after joining Shirley on the beach for a while, I decided to walk a nearby nature trail by the parking lot on the chance of seeing a gopher turtle. I have occasionally spotted them there over the years. They like sitting backed into the entrances of their sandy burrows looking out. About a hundred feet in, no more than a few feet off the trail, there was a large gopher turtle, about the size of the one on the highway. He was just sitting there looking at me. I stood very still and we looked at each other for a minute. Then this turtle started walking toward me! Right before it reached my feet and the trail it turned to the left and only then did I notice that it was heading for its path into the scrub. I watched it disappear and, being me, I allowed myself to imagine that it was, in its own way, acknowledging my stopping on the highway to assist its unfortunate twin.