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Ferdinand and Isabela °

Now we see the Galapagos tortoise

going as fast as he possibly can.

- David Attenborough


The horny suitor pants and groans

to snatch his fertile catch,

crushing the scoriaceous stones °

and stamping thorny thatch.


Slowly he overtakes his mate

and heaves aloft his groin,

smacking against her armor plate

until their shells conjoin.


A hundred yards of grim pursuit—

his plastron sticks at last. °

Lifting his wattled neck, the brute

utters a bellows-blast.


What prods of pain or pleasure move

this tussle of the dust—

the foretaste of mammalian love

or pure reptilian lust?


The monarchs of Galapagos

depart on stumpy legs—

the king to take a well-earned doze,

his queen to gestate eggs.


Alan Sullivan


Notes for students:

Ferdinand and Isabela = islands of the

   Galapagos, named for a Spanish
   monarch and his queen
scoriaceous stones = hardened cinders of

   lava ejected from a volcano
plastron = the underside of a tortoise's shell


First printed in Light.

Reprinted by permission of the author.


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