This morning fifteen turtles or more
graze on seaweed near the shore.
They pay no attention to me.
Fearless, they are back from the brink.
In natural museums their Triassic
fossils, more pterodactyl than turtle,
hang in long knuckled suspense.
They’re swimming again and feeding in Maui.
They nest at French Frigate Shoals.
Their hatchlings are black as magnetite
and oriented to an ancient map. They race
from the hungry shallows to the open sea.
In the middle of the sea they grow brown
and long for a home. They were the first
Hawaiians, before kanaka maoli, before the people found them so delicious.
I watch them surface again and again
with a hexagon scale above each eye
holding a pentagon piece of the puzzle
like a bindi-eye in the middle of the forehead.
Too old, too out of balance to dance,
I lack the protocol of drums.
I count instead the random heads
and focus on rubato in the falling waves.
Jim Willis has a master’s in English from Tulane University and has published poems in The Tulane Review,DMQ Review,Ekphrasis,Melic Review, Snowy Egret, and Hawai’i Pacific Review. He won the 2003 Frith Press Open Chapbook Competition with a collection called The DarwinPoint.