“Giant Tortoise Filmed Attacking and Eating a Baby Bird” by Michael Meyerhofer

Michael Meyerhofer


I still remember reading how
sailors used to flip giant tortoises
onto their shells and stack them

like living TV dinners
in their dank ship-bellies for weeks,
months, butchered as needed.

We ask so much of stomachs.
We want our knives to stay sharp
but conscionable in their cutting,

noble somehow as they slice
clean through all that red under-silk.
In one story, Christ transforms

the sea into a graveyard
just to feed people who forgot
to pack a sack lunch.

A tern chick takes a tumble,
meets a solar eclipse with teeth.
Sometimes, it hurts to be here.

from Poets Respond
August 31, 2021


Michael Meyerhofer: “This ended up not making it into the poem but when I read about this, I immediately flashed back to another story from nearly twenty years ago about Kumunyak (‘Blessed One’), a Kenyan lioness praised in newspapers for adopting and safeguarding baby antelope. Specifically, I remember the consternation the article’s author felt when one particular baby antelope died (presumably of natural causes) and the lioness who had previously been protecting it immediately changed gears and ate it (hunger is hunger, after all). If horror and beauty are the two seemingly opposite threads from which nature is woven, those threads crisscross constantly. Maybe that’s true of society, too.” (web)

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