James K. Zimmerman


on a beach in Mayto—sun
              a peeled orange, sand
like turbinado sugar—
             we found tiny turtles

groping out of burrows
              to head blink-eyed
toward the waves

sometimes crashing surf
               tossed them like pebbles
and they landed belly up
               feet flailing
in the salt air

so we turned them back over,
              coaxed them
through the froth
                toward the western sun

only one in one hundred
               sea turtles survives
oil slicks, satellite microwaves
               and sharks to return

twelve years later to lay eggs
              in the place
where it was born

they say to guide hatchlings
               toward the setting sun
when surf flips them over
               can make them forget

how to find their way
               back to the beach
of their birth

but we could not stop ourselves:
               we picked them up
and pointed them
                to a fragile future

do you remember?

                             and suddenly I remembered
                                           when you took
                             your first steps
                                          staggered and fell
                            surprised to find
                                          you could rise up again

                           your hand held my finger
                                         tight as a talisman
                          bootied toes heading
                                         toward the glass
                           of the patio door

                           I held your hand
                                       as you toddled
                          triumphant, your face
                          in sunlight