Dumpy’s Way–a Turtle Poem by Ken McKeon

The turtle’s name was dumpy,
It pawed away and nosed up the spare
Dry turf beneath the loose wire fencing
That kept our small yard from the neighbor’s
Park sized redwood bearing, pond holding spread.
And Dump’s powerful forelegs lifted the wire
And he struggled through and happily ran off.
Though, truth be told, running really wasn’t Dumpy’s way,
His way was an effortful low-slung hard shell backed
Crawl of sorts, so slow his side-to-side
Shifting head’s heavy wavering allowed him to spot
A scrap of yellowing lettuce say, and that he would wedge
Into his beaky maw and chomp down as quickly
As he could, which wasn’t quick at all, and I
Marveled at him, got down on all fours, letting my belly
Sag to the ground, then snorted as I thought
Dumpy well might, if turtles could snort, and why not?
And I rolled my head way back until my eyes caught
The hot and summery sky above and saw there
Quite beyond any truth that mere belief might hold
Myself here now at table and with words
And it is wintry and dry and signs of breakfast
All around in scattered newspaper and bread crumbed
Plate, and empty juice glass and coffee mug,
And my belly sags and my tongue roams over my teeth
And snatches up whatever touch of food it finds,
And I rise at the sound of scraping at my door,
And my stiff legs shuffle me over to the knob,
Knob which I turn, and door which I open wide
To see before me myself a child at backyard play
With a shadowy vast world before it, seemingly
Acres of yard, huge trees and scummy fishpond,
And I move towards it, so many years away,
And my heart frees itself in tenderness and gathers
To itself the hope and strength needed to move on,
And move we do, all of us out into the stretch
And reach of our beginnings to find ourselves
Here once again as we step off slowly into our brand new day.

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