Gate C22

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 still 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 the 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 our 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
The Human Line
Copper Canyon Press

Gate C22
Ellen Bass

what it means

Love can eclipse us.  Overwhelming love like this can happen at any age.  We have all been loved once.  Love is real.  It is important to stop and pay attention to sacred

why I like it

I'm a big fan of sacred moments.  I love that everyone in the airport stops to witness this one and by the act of reading the poem, we join them.

I like that the poem takes a turn.  I would have liked the poem fine if it just stayed with the kiss, but the fact that it turns to a different topic—how even the most abused of us had a moment like this—makes it much bigger.


This poem combines small concrete observable details and accessible similes. I want to learn how to do that more.  More images, more comparisons, more small sounds like the click of the handles.

You can find out more about her, and, of course, buy her book at