Tracking Tortoises — Alex Simand

Tracking Tortoises

by Alex Simand


Last night I dreamed of tracking
Giant Tortoises across Europe
though I’m sure they’ve long gone:
opening and shutting their sad, reptile
eyes behind glass walls
and in petting zoos.

But in my dream I roamed the continent—
where Hemmingway fought a war,
where Agatha Christie rode a train—
with a pair on binoculars,
a box of waterproof matches,
and an Edith Piaf song on vinyl,
calling out for the Giant Tortoises,
making the sound of deluge
with my throat, lumbering slowly,

watching for the telltale hunch
that looms up from the Seine,
smiling a crater-toothed smile,
or fetid, cracking and round
like the medieval walls of Lubeck
where one eats marzipan potatoes
or takes photos in a murky moat.

They must have lived there, once:
Giant Tortoises like mailmen
ambling across deserts and rivers,
poking their heads in, gnawing succulents
and sipping rats milk—
but they’ve gone now and all I have
is this feeling that I’ve lost a lifetime
tapping my compass, folding
my Tilly hat over and over,
and squinting into the sun,
imagining a tortoise, somewhere on Earth
is blinking with me.

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