Desert Tortoise

Desert Tortoise by Byrd Baylor

I am the old one here.

and snakes
and deer
and butterflies
and badgers
come and go.
and eagles
come and go.

But tortoises
grow old
and stay.
Our lives stretch out.

I cross
the same arroyo
that I crossed
when I was young,
returning to
the same safe den
to sleep through
winter’s cold.
Each spring,
I warm myself
in the same sun,
search for the same
long tender blades
of green,
and taste the same
ripe juicy cactus fruit.

I know
the slow
sure way
my world
repeats itself.
I know
how I fit in.

My shell still shows
the toothmarks
where a wildcat
thought he had me
long ago.
He didn’t know
that I was safe
the hard brown rock
he tried to bite.

I trust that shell.
I move
at my own speed.

is a good place
for an old tortoise
to walk.

Desert Tortoise

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