The Tortoise

Michael Peach

The garden gate has gone;
The tortoise does not hide.
She wants to leave those scented plants
To brave the world outside.

Her elephant legs scaled with dust,
The bony eyes that see
Miles and miles of sterile stone –
The pavement! Now she’s free.

What emotion does she hide
Behind that soldier’s skin?
Years and years of loneliness
Hidden by a grin.

She’s reached the tarmac of the road,
A hiss of grinding shell,
Of splintering chalk and slippery pulp,
Of sticky soft entrail.

The holy cross is pawned;
Samson has no hair.
The girl is raped at twelve,
Mum and Dad don’t care.

What is more obscene,
Unnatural, cruel and cold
Than the tortoise who has lost
Her shell, her life and soul.

                          Spring 1967

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