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Tuesday, October 29, 2019


by Pepper Trail

“One hundred percent girls,” whispered the biologist, crawling next to the pregnant reptile. “This nest will be 100 percent girls.” As the earth gets hotter, turtle hatchlings worldwide are expected to skew dangerously female, scientists predict, making the animals an unwitting gauge for the warming climate. —The Washington Post, October 22, 2019. Photo: A marine biologist helps a newborn sea turtle reach the sea on Cape Verde’s Boa Vista island. Credit: Danielle Paquette via The Washington Post.

In the dark sea, a greater darkness
An absence of starlight, moving
Then on the wet sand, a stone

Stone into turtle, with gathering of breath
And the climb begins, pull and drag
Against all the weight of earth

Far up the beach, with pause for gasp
The turtle curves wings
Into mittened hands, and digs

For this warmth of nest, the ocean shed
This gush of eggs into the place prepared
Hidden among the grains of sand

Then the lurch, the thrash
The torn-up ground, last concealment
Before the run toward home

At the first break of wave
She lifts head, trailing earthly tears
Rests, breathes full, and flies free

So it has been, the mothers forever
Returning to their mothers’ beach
The fathers waiting in the fathers’ surf

But now, the warmth too warm
The nests send only girls into the sea
Until fathers can be found no more

For long barren years, turtles will swim
Far from the beckoning useless land
Bearing eggs for no generation, the last

Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.