A. R. Morrill /Dead Turtle/

Dead Turtle

I don’t have anything to say
To a dead turtle.
Really, at first
I didn’t even know it was dead.
The dog just paused
In the water and sniffed,
Then licked and
broke the surface tension
With her questioning pink tongue,
And tried to decide
What that thing was
That bobbed
Limp arms and legs
And lolling head
In the scentless shallows,
Distant as the craters
Of the moon –
Just as inconceivable
To her.

We stood and watched it for a while,
Neither of us truly convinced
That it was dead.
Those regular, jerking movements
Could have been
A seizure —
Or some mild
Turtle confusion.
A concussion, maybe?
Or choking,
What if it were choking?
There wasn’t much to be done
But peer through the netted shards
Of sunlight that exist
Only in transition from one moment to the next
On the surface of the water.

I could have said something,
I suppose,
But nothing
Felt quite right –
And what do you say to a dead turtle,
Sorry for your loss?
I did wonder how
I might get his shell –
And yes, I am a little ashamed
About that initial instinct, but
It glistened green and yellow
In the crystal shallows
Like the ordinary, everyday
magical things
A child happens upon
And simply must have,
Those things that wind up
In tiny pockets and lunch pails
Or tucked hypnotically beneath the bed.

Thank god for turtle flesh
And rot,
Bones that would nearly be
Impossible to separate
From the shell.

I don’t need to talk much
To a dead turtle – still,
What might that shell sound like
Full of air,
Whistlin’ Yellow Submarine
Strapped to the hood of my car?



A.R. Morrill is a poet and creative nonfiction writer from Seattle, Washington.


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