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The turtle

“The price of life is shame.”
    ~ Danny Wilson, “Lorraine Parade” from the album Meet Danny Wilson (1987)

Back behind the school
In the shade by the brook
I found him
Grey-green patterned
And took him with me
I learned
What he liked to eat
Dandelions hibiscus and clover
And which hours he was awake
Perhaps seasonally changing
Also how he would stretch
To keep limber
All of his habits
My only regret
Was telling the kid
From Florida Street
That I’d take him back
To the creek at summer’s end
As the right food
Would be hard for me to find
During winter
The kid wanted to make a trade
Went and returned
With action figures
Games
Art supplies
I refused
But the kid persisted
Knowing how I like science
Produced a microscope
Chemistry set supplies
On and on it went
Until I considered
That the kid was sort of a misfit
A bit like me
And maybe a pet was for the best
So I explained
How to care for him
Based on all I’d learned
From him
Made the kid promise
To treat him well
Afterwards
I never saw him again
But I saw the kid
One afternoon
Seven years later
Past school hours
By the downstairs lockers
With a knife
As the kid waved the grimy blade
Before my face
Slowly advancing
Backing me
Toward the darkest corner
My absent thoughts
Of some sort of defense
Maybe a knee to the groin
Or a punch in the nose
Lost all significance
I pondered instead
What had become of him

Thanks always returns

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