He tracks her along the edges of the zoo's adobe 
walls, tucks his head inside each time he butts 
her shell; his shoveled underlip nearly spills her 
on her back as if his would-be bride were a rival 
he must tip to die by slices from the sun. 

She scuds through skid marks in the mud, 
slows where they've waltzed before, never 
wheels to confront him with her vicious beak 
and claws nor vanishes inside her shell to make him 
contemplate the turtle paradox of outside in. 

He feels their caravan veer downhill, hefts 
his bulk atop her crescent spine, powers 
his raspy shell along her sun-baked tiles. 
His flippers vainly clench her sides, churn 
toward her core as if through force of will 
he'd pin this rolling wave between his fins, 
clasp her steady for one last plunge 
to freedom in the sea. 

He plants his hind feet on the ground, flares 
his armadillo organ, finds the open envelope 
inside her undulating hull; then like an ancient 
shell-bound man, ecstatic eyes in a haggard skull, 
he shudders, gasping with each thrust. 

Wizened old Lothario, empathic concubine, 
obeying Darwin's last command to these doomed 
prisoners trapped a thousand miles from home.

Only the underestimated 
know the power of patience. 
Gaia chipped her from the core two billion 
years ago, thrust her toward the light; 
she steered to the planet's skin, reposed 
in silence for six-million swoops 
around a slightly straining sun. 

When a highway clattered by she knelt 
on the roadside, beamed to every passing 
being: You an engineer?   Finally she received 
a Yes and signaled Take me home with you! 
The man paused til his brain decoded 
What a gorgeous stone, the very thing 
to tame those papers on my desk! 

Now she hunkers by his modem, seizes 
waves-  solar, sound, magnetic- and stacks 
them in her cells of silicon and quartz. 
As do cousins round the globe, she stores 
megabytes of life, waits til human sounds 
fall silent and it’s time to sing her song.