Paul Spella / The Atlantic

One day you look up
and all that’s left of leaves
is a twisted trunk, thick at the base,

an obelisk, split at the top
like an ungulate’s hoof, a shaft
riddled with holes, hopeful places

for birds to make their fastidious nests.
And if you look closer, you’ll see a tortoise,
head as big as a howitzer shell

and two legs, trying calmly
to swim out from the leathery bark
of which it’s made.

It wants to know, like an accuser
in a dream, what have you done
with your life, and raising its rough,

amphibious hands, holding them out,
implores you to pull its ancient
body from the tree.

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