Tortoises

Tortoises

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BABY TORTOISE You know what it is to be born alone,Baby tortoise!The first day to heave your feet little by littlefrom the shell,Not yet awake,And remain lapsed on earth,Not quite alive.A tiny, fragile, half-animate bean.To open your tiny beak-mouth, that looks as ifit would never open,Like some iron door;To lift the upper hawk-beak from the lower baseAnd reach your skinny little neckAnd take your first bite at some dim bit ofherbage,Alone, small insect,Tiny bright-eye,Slow one.To take your first solitary biteAnd move on your slow, solitary hunt.Your bright, dark little eye,Your eye of a dark disturbed night,Under its slow lid, tiny baby tortoise,So indomitable.No one ever heard you complain.You draw your head forward, slowly, from yourlittle wimpleAnd set forward, slow-dragging, on your four-pinned toes,Rowing slowly forward.Whither away, small bird?Rather like a baby working its limbs,Except that you make slow, ageless progressAnd a baby makes none.The touch of sun excites you,And the long ages, and the lingering chillMake you pause to yawn,Opening your impervious mouth,Suddenly beak-shaped, and very wide, like somesuddenly gaping pincers;Soft red tongue, and hard thin gums,Then close the wedge of your little mountainfront,Your face, baby tortoise.Do you wonder at the world, as slowly you turnyour head in its wimpleAnd look with laconic, black eyes?Or is sleep coming over you again,The non-life?You are so hard to wake.Are you able to wonder?Or is it just your indomitable will and pride ofthe first lifeLooking roundAnd slowly pitching itself against the inertiaWhich had seemed invincible?The vast inanimate,And the fine brilliance of your so tiny eye.Challenger.Nay, tiny shell-bird,What a huge vast inanimate it is, that you mustrow against,What an incalculable inertia.Challenger.Little Ulysses, fore-runner,No bigger than my thumb-nail,Buon viaggio.All animate creation on your shoulder,Set forth, little Titan, under your battle-shield.The ponderous, preponderate,Inanimate universe;And you are slowly moving, pioneer, you alone.How vivid your travelling seems now, in thetroubled sunshine,Stoic, Ulyssean atom;Suddenly hasty, reckless, on high toes.Voiceless little bird,Resting your head half out of your wimpleIn the slow dignity of your eternal pause.Alone, with no sense of being alone,And hence six times more solitary;Fulfilled of the slow passion of pitching throughimmemorial agesYour little round house in the midst of chaos.Over the garden earth,Small bird,Over the edge of all things.Traveller,With your tail tucked a little on one sideLike a gentleman in a long-skirted coat.All life carried on your shoulder,Invincible fore-runner.The Cross, the CrossGoes deeper in than we know,Deeper into life;Right into the marrowAnd through the bone.

TORTOISE-SHELL Along the back of the baby tortoiseThe scales are locked in an arch like a bridge,Scale-lapping, like a lobster's sectionsOr a bee's....