Ancient Ones

Ancient Ones

Poem by Grace McLaughlin, Originally published in Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 1997, 2(3):456. Featured image above: Sea Turtle Petroglyph, Kauai, where the Wailua River meets the ocean at the Hikinaakala Heiau (sacred site). Photo credit: Sydney Campbell



You —
who we name
tortoise —


Ancient ones,
you carry the weight of the world
on your backs.


From your burrows,
you watched
the mountains rise
and the seas recede,
the giant mammals disappear
and the condors soar less,
the two-legged ones arrive.


For 10,000 years
they named you sacred —
honored your presence,
your strength,
your persistence.


Then, the two-leggeds changed.
The new two-leggeds
no longer named you
but killed
for no reason
and did not honor

They brought new four-leggeds
in great numbers
who ate your food
and trampled your burrows and nests.


Machines came
that tore the land
crushed your families and homes.


From your burrows,
you watched.


Some two-leggeds grew in wisdom
And began to watch
And to care.
They learned about your lives
And protected your homes
They moved the four-leggeds
And kept machines away.


Once again,
they name you sacred
and honor


And you, ancient ones,
Who carry the weight of the world
on your backs
From your burrows,
You watch.




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