Sometimes, to find success in writing, an angle is in order. Sometimes that angle comes from your own unusual background. And sometimes, if your background is not terribly unusual, it comes from letting yourself go and writing the weirdly fascinating.
Weirdly fascinating can be fact or fiction. By now everyone knows how one can be as crazy as the other, so whether you are the reporter relaying truth (gussied up, as this is poetry we’re talking) or the artist amusing some Muse with your imagination, it matters not.
This alliterative fact of life came to mind while I was reading my June issue of The Sun. It includes a poem by Ellen Bass, a poet I’ve written about before. Ellen’s title, “Kiss,” leads one to the usual assumptions: namely, humans kissing (something they do quite well). Like Cracker Jacks, however, this poem is hiding a surprise inside. Take a look and see what I mean:
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.
Oh, man. I’m not sure I want to picture that, but it’s hard not to when the poet wields such a fine paintbrush. Kissing lizards? Well, why not, after some thought. This weirdly wonderful piece is infinitely more interesting than kissing humans, after all. If you want to be bored by that, just turn on your TV.