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.
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
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.
One thought on “Lizard Lamentation”
I love the poem and postscript because they’re so full of detail and feeling … after I read them, I felt as if I’d met Shadow. And Lightening. And, of course, you.