Nebraska Center for Writers

GALAPAGOS: SEA TURTLE
by GENE FENDT

On an island of bird calls and ever crashing surf,
collected shatterments of whelk, starfish, conch,
a shipwreck built upon the back of centuries of coral,
green by accident of wind and promiscuous gull,
I woke and walked.
                             My bare foot kicked up
a curve of marble skull cup, smooth
as any goddess' flesh under Praxiteles' hand,
its soft parts worn away, its outer shell still gnarled
and mottled like the sea.
                             How did it happen
to this one? What day, what season, what sudden tide
making toward this island flipped it backward
against the sharp rocks of the headland, or forced it
tight between two stones--its short limbs pawing
wildly in the merciless air?

Or had its ancient slow metabolism ebbed,
and the aged turtle crawled across the sand
to where its mate last housed their egg,
a delicate shell enclosing the next century's life,
and there, as we will, not without pain, turned
to give its thanks for life's fine high play
which turtled over us and leaves
love's strange, rich-vaulted shell
to wash up on the shore and there be found
by some early rising beachcomber, alone,
in a misty foreign dawn, long after we have turned
to water?

Reprinted with permission
from National Poetry Competition (1997 Winner)
Copyright © 1997
by Gene Fendt
Chester H. Jones Foundation


PLACES, THINGS, TIMES
by Gene Fendt


If there were places in the heart,
would they be places?
A miniature of that attic room
where we made love
lodged on the bend of the vena cava?
A bay window in the septum,
inter-atrial, empty?

Or do we mean, by places, things?
Our two coffee cups,
and the small Italian pot, and morning.

Where does that quiet hour fit
amid the rushing blood,
opening and closing valves
like doors in a busy household,
and the constant double thump
of life — a car hitting the expansion spaces
on the concrete freeway?

And if there are places in the heart,
or things, or times,
how does one close them up, pack them,
put them up for sale?

What am I bid
for an attic room above the freeway?
A breakfast table, espresso pot, two cups?

Reprinted with permission
from Whole Notes
Copyright © 1996
by Gene Fendt


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