The Shell Game

by Nouran Azzam

Part 1: The Birds

The birds are cunning predators,

Nothing like the baby chicks or budgies,

With tiny baby beaks and cute singing voices.

No, they are raptors – harsh screechers – 

The villains of our beach.

Me, I am just as smart as them – wiser, even,

For I am a hundred years old, and I have had

To make my way through this world 

One step at a time.

But nature is a vicious witch,

For She has given me a curse and the birds a gift:

They can fly with unimaginable speed,

Swoop in, monstrous beaks open wide

And gulp down my babies in a blink of an eye.

I hate them to death, but surely

Death shall come to my species 

If no turtle of mine makes it to shore alive.

 

Part 2: The Nest:

My feeble heart can barely withstand this horrid day:

The day my children are born,

The ugliest time of a mother turtle’s life.

Oh, how I despise it!

If I could just keep them in the eggs, 

In my nest,

I shall do so, 

But nature is a vile devil,

My children must leave the nest –

And leave me.

And soon they will be taken to their graves.

***

How nice of the birds to loom above, 

Leaning down, anticipating, growling for my children.

Just once, I wish I could yell at the beasts and say,  

“Not today, you devils!

Today,

All my children shall make it to shore.”

Oh, how silly I can be.

I am a hundred years old

And still dream like a little girl.

 

Part 3: The Sands:

Humans call it the sands, the beach, the fun zone –

I call it the battlefield where millions of wars are fought

Below the noses of the Homo sapiens.

I have witnessed this a million times, 

But it never stops tearing me in two,

And I never stop shouting:

“Run, my dears, run for your lives!

Our survival depends on it!”

But it is the same as always:

My little ones can only move so quickly,

And my sworn enemies so swiftly

Swoop in for the attack –

Snap! Crack! Gulp!

Snap! Crack! Gulp!

I catch a glimpse of my helpless turtles

With their round little heads in the

Predator’s beaks, their bodies limp.

I see red now, all red,

The sky is dark and morbid,

There is blood on my mind.

I wonder why I keep laying my eggs,

Knowing the Grim Reaper awaits.

 

Part 4: The Sea:

When dolphins and whales dive back to the water,

There is a loud splash!

But when a turtle enters the sea, it is silent.

No one in the world cares enough about 

Its achievements, going from nest to sea. 

To those like the birds, we achieve nothing.

I try to look beyond my tears, 

To the glistening sea,

And I smile weakly, 

As two of my babies make it to shore.

It still scares me, however,

As the gargantuan wave falls in,

Erasing them from the sands.

 

Part 5: The Deep:

I am scared.

I just left Mother.

She depends on me to survive.

I thought that making it to shore

Means I am safe.

But the battle has just begun.

I am frail, 

The currents are going

Whish-whoosh-whish! 

And I am spinning

In the deep, dark, desolate 

Void 

In a stony silence.

My sibling is nowhere to be seen.

But I know the predators of the deep

Will try to find me.

Oh, if only Mother was here to protect me!

No – I must fight now.

I may never see the light of day –

On the contrary, I might spend

The rest of my life 

In a whale’s innards.

But I must try…

Surely, 

I must try.

SUMMER 2021