Guest Editor for Poetry, Issue 137
Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of five full-length collections of award-winning poetry, including her latest, Becoming the Blue Heron. Her work has appeared in the 2013 Poet’s Market, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Journal of the America Medical Association, Literary Mama, NASA News & Notes, North Carolina Literary Review, storySouth, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press), The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Verse Daily, and many others. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award, Atlanta Review International Publication Prize, Gold Medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.
by Terri Kirby Erickson
Basking on a narrow log jutting over a lake,
three river turtles balance their warm, sun-dried shells
over brackish water as well as any acrobat, one
in front of the other, as if they're a trio of ducklings
waiting to cross the street behind their mother.
Not long hatched from their leathery eggs by the look
of them, these turtles will live for thirty years
if they're lucky, which is longer than James Dean
but less than loggerheads, which live for fifty.
They have nowhere to be, no appointments, jobs,
or worries over money. There is only the dappled light
of the midday sun, the sound of dragonflies
hovering over the lake, the plop of a frog's belly
as it leaps into the murky water. Nearby, the bright coral
petals of a late-blooming azalea dot the ground like
embers, and the sky above them is the color of eastern
tailed-blue butterflies, without a cloud in sight.
And unlike people, turtles are never far from home—
no need for nostalgia or disappointment that the house
where they grew up looks nothing like they remember.
Instead, they carry their homes on their backs, moving
from place to place around the lake or in it—
wherever they wish to be—which for now is napping
on a log, and for river turtles, now is all there is.