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!
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
And I am spinning
In the deep, dark, desolate
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…
I must try.