I am Lonesome George, the last Galápagos Tortoise of Pinta Island.
I see Darwin’s hairy face on T-shirts and hats, backpacks and mugs.
I see the statues. I can read the history books if someone turns the pages.

I remember Darwin. I was there the day he landed in the ship named
for a dog with floppy ears. He tried to lift me up and strained his groin.
He climbed on my saddleback shell and tried to ride me, giggling like
a boy on a birthday pony. He slipped off and rolled over in the surf,
spitting sand. He watched me plod around in search of cactus to crunch,
timing me with a pocket watch. He yelled in my ear to see if I was deaf,
and I hissed in his face. He invited my tortoise brothers and sisters
to board the Beagle. The crew hauled them up the gangplank as guests
of honor. Darwin noted in his journal: Young tortoises make excellent soup.
Like the pirates and the whalers, the naturalists licked their spoons,
soup in their beards, toasting the voyage with glasses of our urine.

I am Lonesome George. I crane my leathery neck and hiss at everyone.
I tuck my head inside my shell. You call and call my name till I peek out.
I am a creature of the tropics who curses the icebergs of December.
You dress me up in cardigan sweaters and wool scarves for winter.
I groan about my gut, intimidating the curious with a drumroll of flatulence.
You feed me the cactus of Pinta Island and pizza from the Jersey Shore.
I am afraid of the toaster and dream of Darwin’s beard caught in its coils.
You are afraid of nothing, as you make waffles jump from the glowing machine.
I plod down the road as cars honk behind me, seafarers hungry for soup.
You let me steer the car, even though the world is blurry and you yell
in my ear when the other cars cruise like pirate ships through stop signs.

I will hiss at the next TV reporter who calls me Lonesome George. This world
teems with pirates, whalers, and naturalists on parade, waving their spoons
in the air, craving the delicacy of buttery tortoise flesh, but now I crane
my neck to croak the love song of the Galápagos tortoise for you, and you
swear I am your Frank Sinatra, I am your Sam Cooke, I sing better than Darwin.