William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Memory’s Tail

I saw the lizard exactly one-quarter of a mile north of the center of the road in front of our house, resting on the dry ground within inches of the rusted peg my father had pounded in before I was born to mark the place where our farm ended and the two neighbors’ began — one with a vineyard to the west, the other with plums to the east. I’d seen lizards before. What made this the lizard, the tiny dinosaur of memory, was that after looking at it for a while, I picked it up by its tail. When the tail broke off in my hand and the lizard scampered away and hid itself in some dry weeds, I was so surprised that I immediately dropped the piece from my hand and stood up with my heart pounding. As far as I can recall, despite multiple opportunities, I never picked up a lizard again, not because I was afraid, but because it didn’t seem right that a lizard should have only part of a tail. I was soon told that a lizard’s tail was made to break that way to afford it a means of escape, and that in time it would grow a new one. I believed it, although as far as I know, I never saw it in the process of happening. I believed it, too, because I had seen polliwogs sprouting legs while their tails melted away and they turned into toads and frogs. And while I did think of picking up a lizard by its body, I imagined that while I was trying to keep it from wriggling free of my grasp, I might crush or otherwise damage its pulsating innards. Light and creamy and relatively smooth on the underside; arms and legs just long enough and strong enough to perform curious pushups while bent at the knees and elbows; rough, scaly skin; alert, prehistoric eyes — three or four inches of primitive delight.


[ 1696 ]

Categories: Daybook

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