Poems by Paul Belz

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Vigil for the Leatherback

by Paul Belz

From Canary Spring 2014

Paul lives near San Francisco Bay, a habitat that is also home to red tailed hawks, redwood trees, raccoons, California newts, and skunks.

It's the crickets' chant,
the syncopated calls of five species
and the howler monkeys' cries
that call you to shore while we wait,
sleepy in the parking lot with our cheeks
on our knees and ours eyes blurred.
You ride the currents, the rushing tides
and we yearn for you, we children
of beach front property, of fishing trawlers
and plastic bags. We yearn to see
that you still live, great vagabond. We yawn,
sleep on the sidewalks with our arms
wrapped around our bent legs until the herald
of your arrival comes. We walk in silence
past guardian waves. They chant with the crickets
and monkeys. The biologist's red votive light
guides us to your side, great traveler. We squat
and kneel on damp sand while you drop eggs
into their shelter. They are round as cue balls,
ivory white and damp, all sizes in a pile.
You struggle with the land, water reptile,
you wrestle with gravity and your weight.
The ridges on your brown - green shell
don't balance you here. We surround you
and watch through the red darkness. We're
silent and motionless as your flippers wave
and toss sand on the eggs as shelter from raccoons.
You start to turn to face the ocean. We break our circle,
rise and move to let you be. Did you notice us
in your struggles, we children of DDT and oil?
You swim in our chests as we walk
single file and silent past the guardian waves
beneath the Geminid meteors and Orion,
our guide to the sky,
while crickets chant and monkeys sing.

Playa Grande, Costa Rica 12/13/01

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