The Adventures of a Turtle

By Russell Edson 1935–2014 Russell Edson
The turtle carries his house on his back. He is both the house and the person of that house.
         But actually, under the shell is a little room where the true turtle, wearing long underwear, sits at a little table. At one end of the room a series of levers sticks out of slots in the floor, like the controls of a steam shovel. It is with these that the turtle controls the legs of his house.
         Most of the time the turtle sits under the sloping ceiling of his turtle room reading catalogues at the little table where a candle burns. He leans on one elbow, and then the other. He crosses one leg, and then the other. Finally he yawns and buries his head in his arms and sleeps.
         If he feels a child picking up his house he quickly douses the candle and runs to the control levers and activates the legs of his house and tries to escape.
         If he cannot escape he retracts the legs and withdraws the so-called head and waits. He knows that children are careless, and that there will come a time when he will be free to move his house to some secluded place, where he will relight his candle, take out his catalogues and read until at last he yawns. Then he’ll bury his head in his arms and sleep....That is, until another child picks up his house....

Russell Edson, “The Adventures of a Turtle,” in The Reason Why the Closet-Man is Never Sad © 1977 by Russell Edson and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. www.wesleyan.edu/wespress

Source: The Reason Why the Closet-Man is Never Sad (Wesleyan University Press, 1977)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Russell Edson 1935–2014

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Relationships, Pets, Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

 Russell  Edson

Biography

Called the “godfather of the prose poem in America,” Russell Edson’s idiosyncratic body of work is populated with strange and intriguing figures: a woman fights a tree, a mother serves ape; in the poem “Let Us Consider,” there’s a “farmer who makes his straw hat his sweetheart” and an “old woman who makes a floor lamp her son.” The poems are surreal and fablelike, sometimes resembling brief plays. Donald Hall said of Edson’s . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Pets, Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.