On gray forgetful mornings like this sea turtles would gather in the shallow waters of the Gulf to discuss issues of self-presentation and related concerns like, If there were a God would he have a hard shell and a retractable head, and whether speed on land was of any importance to a good swimmer. They knew that tourists needed to placate their children with catchy stories, and amuse themselves with various cruelties such as turning turtles over on their backs and watching their legs wriggle. So the turtles formed a committee to address How to Live Among People Who Among Other Atrocities Want to Turn You into Soup. The committee was also charged with wondering if God would mind a retelling of their lives, one in which sea turtles were responsible for all things right-minded and progressive, and men and women for poisoning the water. The oldest sea turtle among them knew that whoever was in control of the stories controlled all the shoulds and should-nots. But he wasn’t interested in punishment, only ways in which power could bring about fairness and decency. And when he finished speaking in the now-memorable and ever-deepening waters of the Gulf, all the sea turtles began to chant, Only fairness, only decency.
from WHEREAS: POEMS by Stephen Dunn.
Copyright © 2016 Stephen Dunn.
Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Stephen Dunn (1939- ) is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. He is the author of fifteen poetry collections, including Whereas (W. W. Norton, 2016).