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Ellen Bass – Ⅲ

Gate C 22 




At gate C 22 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 satin ribbons tying up a gift. And kissing.

Like she’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,

like she’d been released 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—

the passengers waiting for the delayed flight

to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,

the aproned woman icing cinnabons, the guy

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,

like 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 gazing at you

like you were the first sunrise seen from the earth.

The whole wing of the airport hushed,

each of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,

her plaid bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, little gold

hoop earrings, glasses–all of us, tilting our heads up.