Desert Salamander


Eye of newt

yours becomes the seed of paranoia

in this cauldron of rock

widening at the hint

of any light, breath or shadow that moves.

You can sense weed or feather wisp, vine or hair tendril

quivering in the wind, You even know

when I blink– watching from a distance

hidden by garden trees.


Sheltered under log or shrub,

you spend your day eluding the sun

but sometimes you settle under my skin.

An agile spine


tightening with fear, suspicion ( beautifully)

eerie in its own right

as the moon stretching over the pine’s vertebrae.



  1. Wendy,

    What a gorgeous ending. It fills the room with a breeze that tingles the skin.

    There is such a sense of tension created by your word choices and arrangement;
    they fit well with the grace and mystique of that lizard.

    This poem is rich with imagery but even more so with sensory triggers. I feel it
    through and through.

    Great job!



  2. Hi Sarah

    Thank you for your wonderful reply. I am glad you enjoyed this poem and always appreciate your wonderful, intuitive perspective. The Desert slender salamander, native to California, is smooth, delicate and very shy, or I should say paranoid. They hide under brush or small logs and hunt by night. They are beautiful to look at and fascinating to study.

    Again thank you!
    My best


  3. Wendy, you brought us close in to get to know your salamander. Reminds me of our skink, which I have been unable to photograph. He is so sly and quick.
    “You can sense weed or feather wisp, vine or hair tendril
    quivering in the wind, You even know
    when I blink– watching from a distance
    hidden by garden trees.”
    Those words showed me how intimately you know him. Thank you for your observations, your understandings, and your ability to make me pause, read again, wondering how you will end it. “The moon stretching over the pine’s vertebrae” and the words before it made me shiver a little.


  4. Hi Ptc.

    Wow, what a wonderful comment and interesting comment on my poem! And the saga of the lizard/salamander is on-going. In late June, my husband and I had our kitchen tile redone. And of course when the contractors work, they have use a wet saw in the back yard to cut the tile. Which means, the patio door has to stay open as they come in and out. I think at some point this tiny creature wandered in and hid first under our record case in the living room. We would see him scurrying back and forth now and then wondering what we were seeing at the corner of our eye. And one night, he slinked out and we saw he had a snout and tail. I said to Jim, that is a small baby lizard. I think he showed himself to ask for help, namely food and water. Each night after, we took bottle caps and placed meal worms in one and water in the other. We actually saw him come out near dusk and begin drinking and eating from “his bowls”. As time went on, I thought this is either a baby side blotch or western fence lizard. But he was too small and did not have the right coloring according to the internet info. At that point he began moving from the living room record case to a new station under our stove. That is when I wrote the first poem — “What the Desert Brings” thinking still he might be a fence or side-blotch baby.

    Time moved on and he disappeared for awhile; and I did more research.Icame across the Desert garden slender salamander which is long, small and smooth. It has a very paranoid or shy personality and hunts at night, doesn’t like the sun. So I wrote this poem, which is already a few weeks old. But recently, we caught mice and found out that ,they too had been eating the meal worms from the bowls. And I thought the little creature was gone – either he had worked his way back outside or the mouse had eaten him. Then when the mice were gone, he showed up again and we were abled to catch him. We now have a reptile tank with grassy substrata, little trees, a fake rock hill and other things lizards like to climb or hide under. I have concluded from more research that he is now a pacific skink lizard native to California. And thus, the picture that goes with the poem above. I am feeding him meal worms, baby crickets and Petco recommends some salad greens. So far, he likes mostly the meal worms.

    I know cold weather is coming to the High desert and we do get down into the 40’s at night in late Fall through early March. The crows, the ravens, a local owl in the pine tree, a stray neighborhood cat and other larger lizards are out there waiting to have him as prey. So I want to nurture him in growth and strength through the Winter, if possible, and release him in The Spring. Yes, there will always be predators; but I think in the Spring when the weather changes and the foliage is not so sparse, he will have a better chance.

    As for the last lines of the poem they are not really meant to be unsettling but more of a connectivity between myself and the lizard/salamander. There are times when we are all tense and suspicious of fate, experiences etc. And in a way, that instinctive defense is not a bad thing, it makes us more cautious and more aware. And that is how he settles under my skin, becoming my own spine in a way that allows me to be on guard when necessary and also suspect with a sense of curiosity.

    Again thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and personal experience.
    Hope you can get to know your own skink better. They are terribly shy but so fascinating! A gift from
    God, I believe.

    Take care,


  5. Wendy, thank you for the details of your story and your continued research to discover who he is. Thanks for the added note about the ending. Regarding our skink: I read somewhere that they slip inside to find a place to have their babies…more skinks.
    I think there is a follow-up piece of writing in your response to me. It is a fascinating story.


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