After the Race – John Sokol – Tar and Varnish


The heavy-bodied wake at dusk, inching
toward open water. With tensing
flippers long as sand-crane wings,
they knife through riffling phosphor.

They voyage on in an armada
thousands strong,
great shell-houses on their backs.
Desire compels them;
the belly’s load of roe
made weightless in this habitat
impels them.

How is it they travel without rest,
so mutely bobbing in the current,
their heads weaving through light
algae has suffused to a sun-shot
green curtain, their sea-wings parting
the winding sheets
of the fallow deep?

And which one bears a compass
for a heart, or wears a rudder
for the will?

At daybreak they come ashore
as we did decades ago–
in our mortal landfall
at Normandy,
so many of us catapulting
from our shells,
our sorrowing turtle mouths
open, beach stained dark
with blood and silence.

But these are the great mothers
time has wrought, carapaces forged
to undertake the buffeting of the waves
and the journey to the white sand
of a shore memory has marked
in hieroglyph across their
armored backs.

In green garrisons animate
with eagerness, they cross
the great reef of living coral
and on, to an island the wind
making love to the sea
has crafted for their taking.

Here, slowed, yet as undeterred
as allies on the march at dawn,
they dig down in warm sand;
each lays a clutch of membranous,
moon-white eggs
in the tear-shaped channel
of a damp and granular nest.

Here in the aftermath of the surge,
trapped on the return
behind coral-toothed battlements,
they lie in shallow pools
like fallen bells, their clappers
rinsed and laved by the tide’s
long rising,

consummate matriarchs in
volition’s dream-thrall,
intrepid foray
with a beginning and an end.

Jenne’ R. Andrews

Many thanks to the brilliant visual artist and poet John Sokol for permission to reprint his beautiful “After the Race,” which with what I have recently learned about the Hawksbill Tortoise, inspired this poem.

copyright Jenne’ Andrews 2013 All Rights Reserved

April 6, 2013.