Painted Turtle

Summer road the ring around the lake, we drove mostly in silence.

Why aren’t I your wife?

You swerved around a turtle sunning itself.

I wanted to go back. To hold the hot disc of it and place it in the grass.

We were late for dinner.

One twentieth of a mile an hour, I said. Claws in tar. You turned the car around.

Traffic from the direction of the turtle, and you saw before I did, the fifty bones of the carapace,

crushed roman dome, the surprise of red blood.

I couldn’t help crying, couldn’t keep anything from harm.

I’m sorry, you said, and let it hurt.

The relief, always, of you in the seat beside me, you’ll never know.

Driving that road next winter, you remembered that place in the road. Your turtle.

During hibernation, a turtle’s heart beats once for every ten minutes.

It cannot voluntarily open its eyes.

More Poems by Gretchen Marquette
  • By Gretchen Marquette