[39] Small Turtles Sunning, Thomas R. Smith

Four turtles sun on a fallen trunk
a few feet from shore.
Painted turtles, the kind I used to catch
and keep for pets as a boy.
None larger than my spread hand,
their dark shells attract the light.
They stick their necks out
as far as they can to absorb the spring warmth—
what else can they do, clad
in all that stiff collar?
They spend so much of their lives
paddling the chill flow of the river,
chasing their shadows over the river bottom.
What a pleasure it must be for them
to seize a moment in the sun, let
the breeze rippling across the shallows dry their shells.
Though we’re of the same tribe,
I’d prefer, when I go, to be an old tree
that turtles can climb up on to warm themselves.

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