Poems of the Week

Missing Boney

by Julia Griffin

For Miranda

“The South Atlantic island of St. Helena is celebrating the birthday of the world’s oldest
living land animal—a Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan, who is turning 190.”

One hundred ninety years, they say. I think they’ve missed a few.
I reached this island, anyway, round 1882,
And many are the incidents I’ve witnessed hereupon;
But one thing I regret. I never met Napoleon.

I’ve known successive Governors (at present thirty-one);
I’ve had the odd admirer, and some amatory fun;
I’ve eaten islands’ worth of grass and lettuce by the cart;
But though I’ve met some prisoners, not one was Bonaparte.

One hundred ninety years, at least. I feel I’m slowing down.
Another birthday’s looming, with another paper crown;
I’m featured on a coin, but two things mar this jubilee:
I did not meet the Emperor, and he did not meet me.