This poem is called 'Turtle' and it comes from a period when I was feeling very frustrated and thwarted. And the kind of smashed-up sound and imagery in here is an emblem of the way I was feeling.
Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing-case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
she’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal,
she skirts the ditch which would convert
her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.
from Flamingo Watching: Poems (Copper Beech Press, 1994), © Kay Ryan 1994, used by permission of the author and the publisher, copperbeechpress.com. Poetry Foundation recording made on 11 Sept 2007, San Francisco, California.