Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Self-Portrait as a Snapping Turtle
Highly desirable, the shell’s
more comfortable than the collar
of a dress shirt. The rumpled jowls
frame an arched expression bolder
yet more benign than my old one.
The pebble-grain complexion
suits a mood that requires many
years of foraging to effect.
Tiny eyes peer through black-rimmed
glasses I’ve drawn on the photo
to prove to friends it’s really me.
Despite their mineral glaze
these eyes see further and deeper
into pond-murk than I could
with my nearsighted hazel pair.
The hog-nose juts straight ahead
with an arrogance no human
could assert without invoking
the audible laughter of fate.
But the horn-hook of the upper jaw,
the “beak,” as some would call it,
justifies investing my soul
and ego in this sultry portrait.
That jaw can sever a finger
as well as drown a duckling.
It could rip any book to rags
and sneer down any argument.
Its fixed eloquence resists
the subtlest formal critique.
Snugged in a muff of hide as tough
as jerky, I’m irresistible,
a force rather than a creature,
my fixed gaze and my appetite
prehistoric but slow enough
for friends and foes to avoid.