The Cheerful Tortoise

Did the turtles know they had numbers
painted on their backs, with various shades of fingernail polish,
when they were placed in the polished plywood track
that circled the bar, with lanes marked with green paint,
that the turtles ignored?
Every Thursday night, when the taps hardly moved,
in an effort to sell more beer, thus providing a nutritional diversions,
to those desperately studying, those who hadn’t flunked out yet,
hanging on by a thread, in the spring,
to their deferments
It was the that same spring when Lyndon went to war
and after a stirring speech, evoking  the Perdenales
at least three times, revoked the students deferments
from those erstwhile students, who ceased studying on Thursday nights
to become turtle racing aficionados
almost three years later, in the winter, a guy came to have a beer
and watch the turtle races, just killing a few hours,
after a very long day trying to register for the spring quarter
yes he had flunked out, he told the registrar, but three years had passed
and he would be a good student now, the registrar reluctantly accepted his paper work
the bartender asked for his ID, he pulled out a worn military ID card,
all that he had, he had hadn’t been back long enough to get a driver’s license
he looked like the picture on his ID—regulation GI haircut—gaunt tired looking
the bartender looked him over pretty good and finally with grin said
the turtle racing was shut down by the state, and we don’t serve your kind here

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