Tortoise – a poem by John W. Steele


What if you were sitting, folded forward,
your legs stretched out along the ground, arms splayed
beneath your thighs and wrapped around your waist,
fingers clasped behind your back, shoulders
clamped down by your legs, face down in
the dirt between your calves? If you find
it hard to breathe, relax. You’re no ordinary
tortoise. Even here at ocean’s bottom

you can bear the pressure, plus Mt. Meru
on your back, with ease—of course it burns;
those gods and demons yanking on the snake
coiled round the mountain, twirling it to churn
the seven seas—making the elixir
of eternal life—what if this is it?


John W. Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher and recent graduate of the MFA Creative Writing / Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, Earnest Hilbert and David Rothman. His poetry has appeared in Blue Unicorn, The Lyric, Society of Classical Poets and Boulder Weekly. Blue Unicorn nominated his poem “My Grandpa Lost” for the 2017 Pushcart prize. His poem, “Ignis Fatuus,” won The Lyric’s Fall 2017 quarterly award.

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