The Kiss

I know the relationship between tongue and mouth,
tongue and teeth, lips and mouth—the relationship
between tongue and palate, earlobe, eyelash.        

 Flames burn as tulips bloom, quickly stripping
to essence. Thoughts must be carried as amulets
if you want to understand them.

There is euphoria of sameness at the bottom of things,
heady like the collected dross of wine.
Hands are flowers; so is the sun,

 though it has no stem. Hand and mind
are flowers of a kind. Another metaphor:
old-fashioned wallpaper that sticks to the wall

in a stubborn, breathless kiss.
Life offers endless instances of accidental glory.
The list of things that exist unrolls, a spool of thread.

Unwind, unwind! O, now the wind sweeps through!
I am slave to the wind—don't mind where it takes me,
though it wants things that are inappropriate.

We should enlarge our spheres of knowledge,
areas of sentiment. We should travel.
Did you know? The wind stole tears from my eyes

days before you did. I was glad. I had dried up;
in places I was beginning to rust.
But when I met you I swung open

like a window—on slow, un-oiled hinges.
Since, we have been performing a dance
unchoreographed like clouds, stiff at times

like old knees bent in prayer on kitchen linoleum.
It cannot be the end of the first act, but I hang
in the sky out of context, bare as a coat peg.

You laugh, drape your velvet corner of heaven
around my thin wooden shoulders.
Somehow it belongs.

There is a kiss that sounds like the howl of an owl
in a forked elm near a marsh
where trains pass. Have you heard?

It is a kiss that hasn't yet been kissed.
There is a train that will never arrive
though it has already departed.

People flick by so fast I cannot read their faces—
momentary impressions that I will send you
as postcards from the verge of space.                                                            

My finger gets lost tracing thoughts etched
into the foreheads of casual travelers.
My lip is pregnant with private desire.

The mind of a lonely woman resembles
a spoon intent on filling itself—
yielding, practical, innocent.       

I know the thought that precedes relationship.
I have touched a burning candle
because fire precedes emotion,

though a red-capped match precedes flames.
The urgency of sunset and dawn frame life
like exclamation points a Spanish sentence.

Night is quiet.
The moon appears unfinished, a comma.
Blue shadows mount snow on lonely stilts.

I talk about things I know intimately,
but not as intimate to me as your face.
I touch your neck, the bones delicate Chinese characters.

Your body is familiar as if I washed it once
after death, embalmed it, kissed it
in its ultimate state. Not just passionately—

one holy kiss on eyelids done with fluttering.
For all eternity I will know the relationship
between your eyelids and my tongue.

—Published in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century, edited by Diane Frank


Photo:  Christine Schrum , Mural Dallas Road, “Graffiti Dress”

Photo: Christine Schrum, Mural Dallas Road, “Graffiti Dress”