I wandered lonely ‘pon the shore
A windy night with restless seas,
When all at once I saw a score,
A swarm of nesting olive ridleys
Upon the beach, beneath the moon
A lumbering, bumbering turtle typhoon
Whose turtles these are I think I know
I thought they were in Gahirmatha though;
They won’t mind me standing here
And watching them nest ungainly and slow…
I tagged a turtle with great care,
It swam away, I know not where;
For so effortlessly it glided,
All its tracks were elided.
Long, long afterward, on a beach
Someone found it, once more within reach.
Upon reading the tag, she wrote to me:
‘Tis the turtle that has the measure of the sea.
How do I study thee? Let me count the ways
I track thee to the depth and breadth and height
My telemetry can reach, when you dive out of sight
For the ends of science across the bays.
I follow thee through almost every twist in the maze,
Data columns to be filled in by months and by days
A fierce need, by moon and torch-light
I obsess over thee, and for authorship will fight.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines
Write, for example, “The dogs entered the hatchery
And now my paper on TSD has receded into the distance.”
The turtles no longer come ashore and nest.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I watched them every night, and sometimes they watched me too.
Through the months, I collected their eggs carefully, gently
I counted them repeatedly under the starry skies.
They watched me sometimes, and I watched them too.
How could one have foreseen the eggs were all destined to die.
Somewhere I have never travelled, dived beyond
An unimaginable depth, your flippers move in silence:
In your most mundane movements are things which enthrall me
Or which I cannot fathom because my text books fail me.
Your slightest shift will easily confuse me
Though my mind is closed by science, as a clam’s
You bewilder always slowly, subtly as an underwater current
(tugging, pulling, carrying) a little hatchling.
Madhuri Ramesh and Kartik Shanker
The authors are biologists who believe poetry sounds better with a smattering of turtle-speak. They would also like to thank the original poets for inspiration: Byron, Noyes, Eliot, Tennyson and Keats for ‘Turtle Song’ (Issue 11.2); Wordsworth, Frost, Longfellow, Cummings, Barrett Browning and Neruda for this poem.
Vidyasagar Saple is a graphic designer and visual artist based in Mumbai. His dual life allows him to work with a variety of creativity fields and constantly explore different mediums.