When Lynne saw the lizard floating
in her mother-in-law’s swimming pool,
she jumped in. And when it wasn’t
breathing, its body limp as a baby
drunk on milk, she laid it on her palm
and pressed one fingertip to its silky breast
with just about the force you need
to test the ripeness of a peach, only quicker,
a brisk little push with a bit of spring in it.
Then she knelt, dripping wet in her Doc Martens
and camo T-shirt with the neck ripped out,
and bent her face to the lizard’s face,
her big plush lips to the small stiff jaw
that she’d pried apart with her opposable thumb,
and she blew a tiny puff into the lizard’s lungs.
The sun glared against the turquoise water.
What did it matter if she saved one lizard?
One lizard more or less in the world?
But she bestowed the kiss of life,
again and again, until
the lizard’s wrinkled lids peeled back,
its muscles roused its own first breath
and she set it on the hot cement
where it rested a moment
before darting off.
Copyright © Ellen Bass. This poem originally appeared in Indigo
(Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Used with permission of the author.
Ellen Bass is the author of Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). She currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2020-12-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/kiss-3