ELEGY FOR THE GIANT TORTOISES
Let others pray for the passenger pigeon
the dodo, the whooping crane, the eskimo:
everyone must specialize
I will confine myself to a meditation
upon the giant tortoises
withering finally on a remote island.
I concentrate in subway stations,
in parks, I can't quite see them,
they move to the peripheries of my eyes
but on the last day they will be there;
already the event
like a wave traveling shapes vision:
on the road where I stand they will materialize,
plodding past me in a straggling line
awkward without water
their small heads pondering
from side to side, their useless armour
sadder than tanks and history,
in their closed gaze ocean and sunlight paralyzed,
lumbering up the steps, under the archways
toward the square glass altars
where the brittle gods are kept,
the relics of what we have destroyed,
our holy and obsolete symbols.
I'm busy preparing paper for a series of new paintings that will be part of an ArtScience exhibition here in Dunedin early next month. The title of the show is BLEND. There's no way I can't not make work in response to the environmental calamity in the Gulf. I can't get the manatees, seabirds, foraminifera, turtles. . . out of my head. The words 'oil and water do not mix, oil and water do not mix' have been pounding in my chest like a storm; a chant, a plea, a protest. . .
Margaret Atwood's website is (as you'd imagine) a roomy place that, amongst its many treasures, offers generous resources for writers (ref. Negotiating with the Dead: A writer on writing). She has also included 'links of interest', photographs, media clips, podcasts of interviews, reviews, readings. . .
Remarkably, she wrote ELEGY FOR THE GIANT TORTOISES in 1968.
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