howdy, folks; happy monday! today i thought i’d share a poem with you, because i do like a good poem. and also because i made a little field trip to powell’s and bought a book i’m quite excited about! a new one. hardcover. i can’t remember the last time i made such an un-thrifty purchase, but the paperback doesn’t come out until springtime and i had to. it’s the third of the “good poems” series, edited by mister brilliant garrison keillor, and i love it almost as much as i love my first two tattered editions. (i only say almost because i haven’t read everything six hundred times yet. i’m sure once i get to know it better, i’ll love it equally well.)
so, i thought i’d share a poem for you today. it might be my favorite in the whole collection. this one makes me feel stuff. lots of stuff. (i think that’s the only introduction it really needs. it holds its own just fine.) maybe it will do the same for you? i sure hope so. feeling is important.
At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.
Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it again and again. We were all watching–
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.
But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after– if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now– you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.
by Ellen Bass
from The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)