Song-Riddle: Asian Box Turtle

By Karen An-hwei Lee
Questions for a zoologist
starting with anatomy
        concluding with love:

Is a turtle’s skin loaned?
True or false: weight of his shell
        is lighter
        than the light of drums.

What is the under-shell
and is it tough as a mangrove?

Can he see through his shell-box?
Can he see out the rear
                        to this sea of ours?

Does he exist in the order of things?
How does life begin, when does it end
            and is that good or evil?

Yellow margin over a cuttlebone,
domed carapace
        is it a lonely world

of sow bugs, cutworms, and God?

Source: Poetry (April 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2012
 Karen An-hwei Lee


Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. A book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in journals such as The American . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Religion, The Spiritual


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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