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 –

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6 Responses to “gate c22…”

  1. Beatnik du Jour May 11, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Incredibly touching

    • secretthots May 11, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      Yes. Yes.

      • Beatnik du Jour May 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

        I used to work there and would always find the concourses as fascinating as the nowadays leave your family behind area. Always nice to see people reunited but also fun to watch people in the cut off world that is the concourse. People visit with strangers, sleep on the floor, and pass the time in all their own separate ways…

        • secretthots May 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

          I’m suddenly reminded of Ani Difranco’s “Arrivals Gate.” Do you know it?

          I agree about airports. I travel a few times/ year (and even when traveling abroad) and I’ve always found airports to be fascinating places – for the way in which they swing between the mundane and inane to the intense intimacy of passion. They must pump something through the air ducts at airports. πŸ™‚

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