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Elegy for Sea Turtles

from Of Every Creature by anabaptist bestiary project

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Blue crabs are an important food source for many animals in the gulf region. In 2013 populations experienced a significant decline suggesting that larvae contamination during the spill is only now being seen. Sea turtles live very long but quite fragile lives throughout the world's oceans. They perform essential roles in the ecosystems they inhabit both in maintaining the health of undersea environments by eating sea grass (one of only a few species to do so) and by encouraging the health of dune vegetation in their nesting habits. When the spill happened I remembered this poem by Margaret Atwood and slightly edited it and set it to music to help me reflect on the tragedy. It both gives hope for the future but is honest about what has been lost and is not now visible to us.


elegy for sea turtles a song about sea turtles
(lyrics by Margaret Atwood)

Let others pray for the brown pelican
the blue crab, the heron, the cajun:
everyone must specialize

I will confine myself to a meditation
upon the sea turtles
withering finally on a remote island.

I concentrate in subway stations,
in parks, I can’t quite see them,
they move to the peripheries of my eyes

but on the last day they will be there;
already the event
like a wave traveling shapes vision:

on the road where I stand they will materialize,
plodding past me in a straggling line
awkward without water

their small heads pondering
from side to side, their useless armour
sadder than tanks and history,

in their closed gaze ocean and sunlight paralyzed,
lumbering up the steps, under the archways
toward the square glass altars

where the brittle gods are kept,
the relics of what we have destroyed.
our holy and obsolete symbols.


from Of Every Creature, released October 4, 2013
Composition of “Elegy for the Sea Turtles” C 2011. Lyrics are based on the Poem: “Elegy for the Giant Tortoises”, by Margaret Atwood, from the poetry collection SELECTED POEMS I, 1965 – 1975 currently published by Houghton Mifflin C 1976 by Margaret Atwood. Edits to the poem to make it applicable to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are approved by the Author. All rights reserved.


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anabaptist bestiary project Ann Arbor, Michigan

Rocking the world through reflection on creatures the Anabaptist Bestiary Project is a ten piece alternative rock ensemble under the creative direction of Trevor Bechtel. The ABP collects vocal and instrumental musicians from Bluffton University to delve into the artistic and literary heritage of the spirituality of creatureliness. ... more

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