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Turtle Dreams

by Darrell Bourque


I am trying to understand turtles

and how they work their way into my dreams.

On some nights I am a hermit in a play.

A tortoise standing for slowness in an equation

about relativity and time has a bigger part than I do.

One night I am hand-fishing for turtles in Gueydan,

On night I am in the shallows of Bayou Wikoff

at the back of my property and watching them line up

to sun themselves in the reeds and long grasses.

Another night I hear my Creole friend make poems

about her father catching and cooking caouane

for their supper. Caouane stew, caouane sauce-picante,

caouane soup laced with sherry served over white rice.

Her songs are sweet and rich as turtle songs should be.

I believe my therapist when she says we dream ourselves

always, that we are always everything we dream about.

I can see myself in mud, see myself lazy and inert

on some tilted bank, see myself almost out of the scene.

But last night’s turtle was illuminated and fixed

on an altar, underlit, a spirit rising by sitting still.

The altar part I understand I think, but the glass reptile itself

is the mystery, so blue and so thick, and so transparent

as hardly anything is in this world as we know it.