Alexander Levering Kern 

Summer of the Snapping Turtle

The year the comets clashed in the Northern sky
a turtle appeared at the end of the road.
Grey-green as Spanish moss, large as a hubcap,
she swiveled her head. Away, Away, she seemed to say
but the crowds gathered near Calder’s Clam Shack
and we wondered, What’s next? Is it okay to move her?
No one could answer so we stood and we waited.
I imagined her later, alone in the darkness,
and like my enemies, the foxes circled her nest.

In the kayak that evening I watched as my boy
pulled handfuls of seaweed up from the deep. 
“Lobsters,” he’d say, and I felt the fear
grab at my belly like quick undertow. 
We’re out too deep, I thought, but my son
had taken command - a four-year-old pirate
crying “Further still! This way, and that!
Out toward the Osprey and on to the Dovekie.
Keep paddling on to the setting sun!”

Earlier that summer in the seminary hallway
I heard the inward voice whisper I will lead you if you let me.
The ceiling lamp hummed, space and time disappeared,
and as if I were dreaming, I woke later in Maine
where the cedar walls taught me to breathe again,
whispering the names of those I could trust.

In the stillness before rising, one truth came clear:
someone I knew well desired to know me,
but only in the power of my own resurrection,
beyond snapping and fighting with terse word and silence
beyond the old road with the word MARS spelled out
in Christmas lights on a bleach-bone wall.

“God,” my son said, “is a criminal of peace”
and when I rose at last I heard they’d delivered her–
with her snapping jaw and fortress shield,
with her eggs inside – they carried her down
down past the Clam Shack, down by the fire pond,
down to where the cool rivers run, without murmur or regret.




Alexander Levering Kern is a poet, educator, activist, Quaker, and interfaith leader. His work appears in About Place Journal, African American Review, Huffington Post, JAMA, Caribbean Writer, Constellations, Spare Change News, Spiritus, and The Whirlwind Review; anthologies from Ibbetson Street, Main Street Rag, and Pudding House; and elsewhere. He is editor of Becoming Fire: Spiritual Writing from Rising Generations. Alex has traveled, studied, and worked in post-earthquake Haiti, post-apartheid Southern Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Hiroshima, Brazil, Honduras, and with students on interfaith pilgrimages from Selma to St. Louis/Ferguson and the Arizona/Mexico border. Currently he serves as Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service at Northeastern University in Boston. Alex lives in Somerville, Mass. with his wife Rebecca and children Elias and Ruthanna.