Far from the kisses…

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Gate C22
by Ellen Bass

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, “Gate C22″ from The Human Line. Copyright © 2007

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