“Gate C22” – Ellen Bass‏

by richibi

Gate C22

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.

Ellen Bass – from “The Human Line” (2007)

_____________________

the line, as it were, is blurred here between
prose and poetry, what is the one and what
is the other, the answer, of course, is in the
eye of the beholder, what do you think

I cannot profess to be able to give you an
answer, to be able to tell you your difference,
I can only know what I know, and how that
accords with what I think poetry is, or
prose, for that matter, what for me are
their definitions

these have been tested, much as my
definitions of love, for instance, or
friendship as well, throughout my ages,
and for the very same reasons, to get to
know myself, to somehow learn there life’s
lessons, for art and affections have been
the most profitable sources of my
metaphysical scrutiny, who am I, where
am I, and why, these and ill health, and
the looming inexorability of its
consequence, of course, death

a simple answer to the question, is
Gate C22 a poem, would be that it is
written in iambic pentameter, like
Shakespeare, like Elizabeth Barrett
Browning
, and a host, of course, of
others, if that is for you sufficient
grounds to validate, not to mention
its metaphors, even allegories,
alliterations, onomatopeiae

the more difficult answer is in its
articulation, its condensation and
distillation, of a very magical and
immutable, perhaps even oracular,
moment

which, for me, already, is, in and of
itself, very poetry

but I’m a poet, I look for stuff like
that, you’ll have to forgive me
that idiosyncrasy, it has provided
me ever, however, with wonders

Richard

psst: loved “vernix“, who knew

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