The tortoise wakes under a cathedral.

For months she’s needed nothing

but coolness, solitude, rest.


Hunger shut off with autumn’s first frost.

Beneath the dirt, the surface of her shell

resembles Raphael’s honeycombed arches


in The School of Athens under which

philosophers point towards sky and earth.

The tortoise is in a world within a world.


What is it like to be so still your breath can pause?

Like a tree, she grows another set of rings

each year she survives the wild.


Now, feeling the thaw, she reaches up:

legs, nails, her ancient head nudging the earth.

The slow dig begins.