Treasure Island

Diane Hine

(25 July 1956)

An Interesting Ancestry


To some of us, a tortoise lives on land
while turtles only rarely leave the sea.
‘Chelonians' applies to any brand,
so here I'll use this terminology.

Land dwellers share aquatic ancestry
and most of us decided to stay put.
Chelonians agreed to disagree.
A flippered revolution was afoot.

A late Triassic turtle fossil shows
a hard-shelled belly plate and softer back,
presumably to ward off fatal blows
from deeper-dwelling predators' attack.

Did top shell metaphorically ‘dissolve'
when full-shelled forebear sought the sea's embrace?
Or did an unshelled forebear's shell evolve
in oceanic pilgrimage retrace?

Genetic sleuthing points to latter case.
The evidence suggests that once again,
the tortoise forebears left their liquid space
and plodded (swam?) to shore with sigh, 'amen'. *

From sea to shore to sea to shore once more.
You'd surely think a record lies therein.
Yet maybe making not three trips but four
is water loving cousin terrapin.

When next you gaze with love in tortoise eyes
and wonder at his mind's soliloquy,
from languid, longing looks you may surmise,
he's pondering ‘To sea or not to sea'.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Edited: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

* over many generations obviously

Comments about this poem (An Interesting Ancestry by Diane Hine )

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  • Lyn Paul (6/5/2014 8:32:00 AM)

    Words moving towards a documentary. You always keep us thinking Diane (Report) Reply

  • Janet Budd (1/8/2013 5:10:00 AM)

    You are very witty. I like! ! ! ! I wonder how we'll evolve? A lot of us have shells already, invisible shells, impenetrable shells. (Report) Reply

  • Owain Glyn (12/12/2012 8:40:00 AM)

    These creatures are not exactly famous for their perambulatory speed, maybe that goes for their decision making prowess too. (Report) Reply

  • Chuck Audette (7/19/2012 2:08:00 PM)

    Was it a race against the whale? Foot to flipper, what a tail! ! And will, too, we, return to the sea? Seems a moves afoot this time of year, to the beach since heat we cannot bear... -chuck (Report) Reply

  • Captain Cur (7/2/2012 7:35:00 AM)

    Your writing on difficult concepts, settings, evolution and different life forms
    seems effortless when read. The work, research and thought that goes into
    your style of poetry is immense. (Report) Reply

  • Danny Draper (4/19/2012 11:41:00 PM)

    I did see once the nub of a feather on a turtle's flipper and now know why, perhaps their next peregrination will be to the sky.

    Fine poem. (Report) Reply

  • Pradip Chattopadhyay (4/18/2012 2:34:00 AM)

    A struggled and changing adaptation, never belonging to anywhere forever, ever searching for anchorage....an outstanding event simply put. (Report) Reply

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