Sceloporus magister

Desert spiny lizard

Richard Tavenner



Tail up, head down

About three feet off the ground

On the east side of an old fence post

South of a big city

In the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert -

A big Desert Spiny has found his spot in the sun.


Not too early, not too late

About an hour in the morning light

Just five feet and five seconds

From his hole in the earth,

The regal reptile surveys his realm -

His eyes on sky and tree, bush and ground.


Summer in the desert city

About thirty miles north of a deserted pasture

On my back porch in the morning, and I am thinking

He is down there on that fence post warming his body –

Keeled scales, a spiny armor painted

Brown and black, blue and green, yellow and purple.


I held him once in my hand

As a boy in summer.

I know the feel of that taut tense fighting biting body,

The sharp and jagged back, the smooth belly below.

I know the feel of its sharp claws and teeth -

The warm smell of its lizard body.


Somehow I knew if I held him too long

Some natural order would be disturbed–

I hungered only for its beauty and spirit.

He is there on that fence post now.

Later, he will climb a Mesquite tree and eat an insect meal.

And at night his warmed body will cool in a rodent hole.




As poet & electrician I recite to customers---often to have the favor returned. Writing serves memory serves speech which animates and lifts poetry from its half-life in the shade of closed-up pages. A spoken poem gives back the fleeting power of a unified body and mind.