Turtle Talk

comments 21

I was sitting
on the squishy bottom
of a short stack of water
about three feet tall,
beneath a full sun,
fully clothed,
buttons made up,
with little bubbles
hiding out in
my eyelashes,
watching a fish
watch me back through
the grass,
thinking about
the strange economies
of tadpoles and turtles,
wondering what
that brewing pain
was inside of my chest,
as I was
somehow temporarily
without my memory
of the direct effects
of breath-holding,
and becoming
quite disconsolate
about this burning
sensation spreading
up and down my torso–
and staring at that fish
hoping it would turn
into an answer
to this feeling
or a marching band
or something,
when a face
plunged through
the bright, wobbling surface
above me
and suddenly
I felt like
a lost sheep
that had tumbled into a ravine
and been found out about.
A brilliant Presence
with curious, roving eyes
had thrust itself
into my strange world
and begun looking all around.
When Hafiz saw me
he immediately
launched into
a most loving tirade,
far too long-winded
I thought–
given the circumstances–
a glorious admonition
which looked to me
like a torrent of worlds
pouring from his mouth
and sounded like
a whale giving a speech
with a mouthful
of marbles
through a muffler.
Then his hands
dove into the water
like a pair of synchronized falcons,
hooked me by the shoulders,
and yanked me up
to the sky.

Coming up through the surface,
some part of me stayed behind
like ink that had been rinsed away.
I could see the spreading swirls upon the water,
but no sign of me or my Friend,
or of my arms
or shoes
or shirt sleeves.

We were nothing left but sky.

There were some turtles
on a log several feet away
who apparently see this
type of phenomena all the time,
this rinsing of beings
in the cleansing waters of confusion,
and I could hear them
thinking to each other
through the sky that I had become–
thinking about turtle things,
like shell patterns and
two hundred types of daylight
and the flavors of small bugs–
and it was good.


    • Many thanks, Alison. Some whimsy was much needed on this end, though now I can’t remember why. 🙂 Thanks for your heart whispers filling the space in between the turtles.



  1. ~meredith says

    I laughed. So much like the way of young children, excitedly telling an attentive grownup about adventure. Truly charming.


    • Yeah! I love your experience of reading this. I don’t think I realized that was the tone at the time, but you are right, there is an element of the childlike, earnest narrative here. Thank you for sharing that!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading this piece Michael, I was reminded of a time . . . a time long, long ago. A time when I never quite knew if I were a water-dweller or creature of the ground. A time when I spoke to fish, read the mind’s of whales and listened to The Lonely Hearts Marching Band. You know, a time when I used to smoke a lot of pot.

    Michael – the dude abides.



  3. Drip dry in the sky – You transport me, always, to something on the edge of memory – do I remember turtle thoughts from within or from the sky? Do I remember the burning sensation of the body’s need to breathe, turned into fish answers or marching bands? mind swift parts away on the seusshafizgilliammichael ride.


    • You remind me of one of my favorite quotes from A Course of Love, “What memory is not a memory, but your identity? Only love.” We are the turtle thoughts and the night sky, both– human beings, the inner and the outer, and a marching band, too. I think I am going to have to forego the convention of being baptized only once, and repeat as necessary, which of late is about every thirty seconds. Thank you for collaborating in the spontaneous deployment of twin engine vehicles for the transport of being to the borders of memory, where all riches (and the dude) abide.



  4. Amazing! There’s an after the event reasoning about it, a kind of figuring-it-out… let’s see, if I know the dimensions and other characteristics of my location down there sitting on the squishy bottom, holding my breath without realizing it, then it’s very likely that before I got there I must have been in another location where all this was/is already seen. Wow… I was/am, therefore, the sky itself! So it’s only now that I realize this is why I see the world clear-eyed and discovering the oneness I was looking for because I thought I’d lost it in the cleansing waters of confusion… a kind of baptism of turtles. Thank you Michael, this one reaches the parts that other poetic adventures cannot reach.


    • Thank you, Tiramit. Your experience and insight add to my own experience of this one. I am trying to hold the realization you are describing, and I think I see it in glimpses. You may think I have it already, or I wouldn’t have written the way I did, but one fascinating thing about creating anything at all is that it always serves so many beautiful functions. We all discover so much in our relationship to one another and our creative gestures. Yes… the realization that even in our confusion there is a sensation buried in what we can know and sense– an emptiness evidenced in our dimensioned states, a memory of seeing the Whole Thing. Thank you for sharing that.



      • Interesting, yes, okay, well, maybe I should try to clarify this a bit. Language is the metaphor – just in itself – before the consciously created and mysteriously incidental meanings arise of their own accord and are contained. The reader is placed in the situation of facing a ‘living’ text. Among other characteristics, there’s a tendency for linear time to vanish.The turtle was/is always experiencing the sky – is the sky, and subsequent to that, it appears (at the entry point of the reader), came the baptism… a kind of time-shift thing. Our turtle returns to being the sky, and it’s like that for a while before it becomes the baptism again and this duality eventually merges to become one long endless baptism and surfacing in oneness, like the flickering of individual frames in a celluloid reel of moving film creates movement…


        • Yes, thank you for continuing, Tiramit… Whether your living text here evokes precisely what was intended, it has evoked a lovely continuum of flickering within my presence. The particle and wave of here and everywhere, taking turns. I feel expanded and it is, as you sometimes say, enough.



  5. Loved this poem, Michael. Have you ever read anything by the “turtle man”, David M. Carroll. He is a beautiful artist, naturalist writer and animal lover. See:


    And I will tell you a secret if you promise not to laugh… I think my husband and I have been together in other lifetimes, one being turtles together. My husband “kinda” goes along with this.



    • Hi Ellen,

      I haven’t see anything by the Turtle Man before. Thank you for the link!

      And I love the story about you and your husband. Any laughing I offer is the most joyous sort– the kind you cannot help but offer when you discover, years later, you were born with a delicious secret inside of you. The kind of secret whose discovery rewords everything that has even been in the language of grace.



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