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"Quiet Moments": a poem by Heather Lang-Cassera


Quiet Moments

— after a threatened species


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The desert tortoise makes its way,

not as if she could move mountains;

she is the buttes & saddlebacks themselves

& is too perfect to be a fixed part

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of this dust-splashed earth.

She swishes sand, leaving wing-shaped tracks,

& on her back, carries a detailed

topographic map: the delicate lines,

contours of relief,

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or manifestations of the gaps

we fill with silence

& other absent declarations.

Together, we hear the hearty hissing

& guttural grunts, warning

us to keep our distance;

at first, we thought the tortoise

was a snake, but we learn

that even our palms,

such unquiet basins,

can ache. 


Heather Lang-Cassera is the Clark County poet laureate