Lizard Lamentation



Ancient One:

Whiptail, sagebrush lizard –

gray striped and slender

you slipped through the screen

into my heart,

swiftly racing across the stone floor

climbing the wall

reaching the window ledge

you basked in the sun.

Peering curiously,

we, your new friends,

(my two dogs, Lily and I)

were delighted to meet you.

Your iridescent blue spotted belly

was barely discernible,

and I thought at first that I imagined a cerulean sky,

or sapphires in the sun…

I named you Shadow – because

you materialized out of a crack or portal

and streaked across the floor or wall

like lightening on the run.

A little girl in me prayed you’d stay.

I heard her say:

“You have plenty of small ants to eat!”


When I called your name you listened,

twisting your head in my direction,

silvery slanted eyes fastened on mine.

Was it really with rapt attention?

I can’t speak for you,

but it surely was for me.

I loved you instantly.

In that place between words

where bodies whisper

in what used to be a universal language

long forgotten by humans,

I felt loved by you too.


The little girl prayed you’d stay awhile

Perhaps join us for the next round…

The coming of the autumn harvest season…


For about a week you came and went

like the west wind

that rules these golden summer days.

In your absence I conjured up an image:

velvet scales shimmering in desert tones,

painted patches of indigo blue.

I respected your need not to be touched.

And after your first disappearance,

I believed you’d come again.

You didn’t disappoint me.

I want you to know that

every lizard we met in the dry cracked washes

I measured against you.


Some days you climbed translucent blinds

that protected Guadalupe’s stone house

from fierce white heat;

clinging to the fabric

with spidery fingers

you absorbed the sun

through your skin.

I can still see you…

Stretched out on the screen

a silhouette etched black ink.

Your tail curled itself into a spiral.

It is not an exaggeration to say that

you were a study in pure grace.


“Do you see the lizard on the screen?”

I asked the woman,

to bring the reptile to her attention.

When she mindlessly slammed the door

I felt the blow, even before I

was blinded by truth.


“Oh no” I keened, over and over

as I picked up your lifeless body.

A crushed belly told the tale.

But when I turned you over

you looked so peaceful –

almost as if you were sleeping,

eyes closed for the last time, light gone dim.

Stunned, I carried you to the window and placed you on a flat oval stone

under a small standing goddess that frowned

with fierce anger and haunted eyes…

her mouth opened in a silent scream.

A dead hummingbird lying in the juniper bouquet

had broken it’s neck at the window

just the day before.

That’s when I remembered

the 13 crows I’d seen that morning…

the dead rabbit in the road.

Tonight the horned owl hoots three times under a waxing moon.

Death is stalking me.


These sacrifices of the innocent

for what?

To make it plain

that death is calling my name?

I am not that important.

I couldn’t weep then,

but writing these words,

tears slide down my face

blurring my vision and

the distance between now and then…


The vulture goddess wheels overhead.


How can it be that

whenever I look through a screen

I think you are still there hiding?

We knew each other for a moment…

How did Time stretch herself out

to bind us so intimately?


Love has no boundaries.


I can’t bear to part with your perfect body.

I have set a firm intention

to release you to Guadalupe

after the full moon.


Today I cling to you

like a child clasping a beloved animal

close to my beating heart.


Today I ask:

How can it be that every death

slams me back into the first one?




After burying Shadow under his favorite spot I came into the house looked out the same window and  there was another sagebrush lizard draped over the stone with his head pointed down to the place where Shadow was buried.

The next morning I saw movement at the window and once again a sagebrush lizard was there in exactly the same place peering in at me. Was it the same one? Astonished I stood there attempting to comprehend what I saw – a sagebrush lizard making eye contact with me in exactly the same way that Shadow had. Then before my eyes this lizard bobbed up and down gesturing to me with his whole body. He repeated this behavior three or four times before disappearing. I had never witnessed behavior like that in any lizard. I know enough of Nature’s ways to accept this acknowledgement as Something  – reminding me that my little friend’s life mattered and that my actions did too…

The following day I dug up some sage to plant below the window over Shadow’s grave while another sagebrush lizard watched me? After watering the plant I stood there quietly as this lizard approached the wet ground. I looked for the blue markings that would indicate that the lizard was a male and couldn’t find them. This lizard was a female. Suddenly she disappeared into the foliage next to the sage. I named her Lightening. She has been sunning herself on the outside of the window ever since!

Do lizards make friends and share territories I wondered? I thought they might do both.


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