Poems of the Week

The Test Tube and the Turtle

by Julia Griffin

“The world’s rarest turtle has moved closer to extinction after a female died in a Chinese zoo, leaving just three known members of the species.
The Yangtze giant softshell turtle, believed to be more than 90 years old, died in Suzhou zoo on Saturday, according to the Suzhou Daily.
Its death came a day after staff at the facility attempted to artificially inseminate the animal using semen from a male more than 10 years her senior, the newspaper reported.”
—The Guardian

One of our rarest, oldest turtles
Died in a Chinese zoo this week;
Thus yet another species hurtles
Into extinction, so to speak.

After some medical kerfuffle,
This one of four, this Turtle Royal,
Started a softshell softshoe shuffle
Issueless off this mortal coil.

Well may we all be sad and angsty,
Uttering vainly words like these:
“Why, Not-So-Youngster of the Yangtse,
Were you so very hard to please?”

Maybe a spiritual vocation
Made you determined to be chaste;
Maybe the word “insemination”
Struck you as in appalling taste;

Maybe; but I have also wondered
Why we should be surprised you thus
Spurned a co-parent of one hundred,
Being a sprightly ninety (plus).