Who would be a turtle who could help it?

James de Carle Sowerby





Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing-case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
she’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal,
she skirts the ditch which would convert
her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.

Kay Ryan
from Flamingo Watching


James De Carle Sowerby (1787 – 1871) received an education in chemistry. He and his brother finished his father’s work, The Mineral Conchology of Great Britain, and had it published.

Together with a cousin, he founded the Royal Botanic Society and Gardens, and was its secretary for 30 years.


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