Monday, April 17, 2023

Ardor in the Outback by Jean Ryan

Each autumn in the Australian Outback,
a hefty lizard called the shingleback skink
hauls its armored body across miles of terrain,
searching for the love of its life.
Eventually, inevitably, it locates her scent trail,
and they spend several minutes engaged
in a ritual of licking and mating.
For the next eight weeks they knock around together
before the male turns tail and resumes his solitary existence,
leaving his pregnant consort behind.
The two carry on this way for up to twenty years,
neither one inclined to look elsewhere for company.
If the female happens to perish while they are together,
the male will stay with her body, nudging it now and then
in despair or bewilderment—who can say?

It is not the lizard’s monogamy that surprises me—
many creatures live devoted lives—
it’s those ten months of separation,
the unwavering hunt that follows,
the odds of finding one tiny scent
in that rocky, empty wild,
as if the shingleback skink
is here in reassurance,
in proof of faith.

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in coastal Alabama and believes that retirement is highly underrated. Her writing has appeared in many journals and anthologies. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners is her second story collection.


  1. wonderful use of language, imagery, and natural history. Remarkably, a poem beyond quibbling.