At the Turtle Conservation Center

Bending over the edge of the tank
I lift my first sea turtle out,
carful to place my fingers
beneath her two front flippers
my thumbs resting on the shell of her back.
Heavier than I expected,
this eight or nine month Green.
The black shell she had as a baby
is now an Impressionist display,
a sunset with rays of orangey-brown,
on each of her perfect scutes.
I place her in the temporary tub
where five already wait.
While my teammates empty and clean her tank,
I become her dinner Mama.
I drop the pieces from a bowl of cut-up fish,
carefully around the tub’s perimeter,
for equal access and fight prevention.
When the food is all consumed,
I get to lift her out again,
and clean her, front and back,
with a gentle toothbrush scrub,
I take the place of the coral
that would scrape her in the wild.
Now her tank is freshly filled
and I set her back in the water.
Tomorrow maybe I’ll get to care for
the tender turtle babies
hatched from their shells last week.

My fingers now have felt the life
of turtles who came from the sea,
of beings who will soon go back in release.
This one I fed and cleaned
will take my touch on her journey,
a long migration of growing strong,
decades of lone adventure in the depths.
When this one returns in twenty years,
when she has grown as large as me
and lays her eggs on this island’s beach,
maybe I will know,
maybe our long-ago touching will stir
a reverberation in the air
and I will sense her fulfillment.
Many times she will return.
When she is fifty, and lays three hundred eggs,
I who am seventy-five will be gone.
Maybe she will know,
Maybe our long-ago touching will stir
a reverberation in the air
and she will sense my fulfillment.

©Susa Silvermarie 2024

Turtle Conservation and Rehabilitation

One Response to “At the Turtle Conservation Center