Someone found it by the road, intact and drying
like a miniature mummy making itself of sunlight.
Dessication whittles down its body to a frame
from which the scales might someday drop like notes
off a staff, the inky sheen of each fixing an interval
even as the chord unravels. I don't know why decay ignores it
but this self-preservation, taken to extremes, is a test
and only a test: what is the body's half-life?
Can one little soul avoid oblivion?
Each day, there's change: the yellow stripes
along its back, like trails of shooting stars, grow brighter
and the brittle black flesh glossier, a stolen harmony
of light and dark like what you see beneath your lids
when pressure forces black-eyed-Susans from the retina.
And even though the eye, determiner of truth
and beauty, rots first after death, this lizard meets my gaze
with deep dyed pearls as sharp as anthracite.
Its limbs shrivel to thread. This is art: the stillness
that enables listening as raw matter finds its tongue,
the transformation, and the witness
to a night so dark no diamonds shine above.
JUDITH HARWAY's work has been published in a number of literary journals, including Cream City Review, Red River Review, Southern Poetry Review, Cottonwood, and Carolina Quarterly, and has earned fellowships from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Hambidge Center, and the MacDowell Colony. She is on the faculty of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.