Today's poem is by Lisa Allen Ortiz

The Tortoise Survives the Fire

He's at my friend's house now.
In the driveway, we watch him
with our arms crossed, the beer-stained
winter light seeping through fence, vines.

He's the size of a coffee table
80 years or so they say, dumb-ass slow
but with cinder-burn eyes.
He eats nasturtiums. We have our health
he says to us. Suffering and the end of suffering, he says.

He does not say carpe diem. He does
not say bombs away, bottoms up. Nor does
he say the Good Lord will provide.
He does not say I've been lucky. He does not say:
They had it coming.

The house was burned to rubble, ash,
skeletons of charred beams. The humans survived
because they were out. The bird
(exotic, singing, caged) died. A firefighter
found the tortoise in the ash, walking out the melted

garden gate, all blessed in soot.
He said: You think that was hot,
let me tell you about this South American tortoise I knew
in '68
. Not really. There's nothing glib
about survival. Is there.

So either it was a miracle or a thick shell.
The tortoise shakes his head.
Everybody wants wings, he says, but not in a gloating way.
I go home. He's not my problem. From my window
I see my children running in from school, their backpacks

bouncing. It is January. They are young.
I have lots of time.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Allen Ortiz All rights reserved
from Crab Creek Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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