• They are kissing, on a park bench,
  • on the edge of an old bed, in a doorway
  • or on the floor of a church. Kissing
  • as the streets fill with balloons
  • or soldiers, locusts or confetti, water
  • or fire or dust. Kissing down through
  • the centuries under sun or stars, a dead tree,
  • an umbrella, amid derelicts. Kissing
  • as Christ carries his cross, as Gandhi
  • sings his speeches, as a bullet
  • careens through the air toward a child’s
  • good heart. They are kissing,
  • long, deep, spacious kisses, exploring
  • the silence of the tongue, the mute
  • rungs of the upper palate, hungry
  • for the living flesh. They are still
  • kissing when the cars crash and the bombs
  • drop, when the babies are born crying
  • into the white air, when Mozart bends
  • to his bowl of soup and Stalin
  • bends to his garden. They are kissing
  • to begin the world again. Nothing
  • can stop them. They kiss until their lips
  • swell, their thick tongues quickening
  • to the budded touch, licking up
  • the sweet juices. I want to believe
  • they are kissing to save the world,
  • but they’re not. All they know
  • is this press and need, these two-legged
  • beasts, their faces like roses crushed
  • together and opening, they are covering
  • their teeth, they are doing what they have to do
  • to survive the worst, they are sealing
  • the hard words in, they are dying
  • for our sins. In a broken world they are
  • practicing this simple and singular act
  • to perfection. They are holding
  • onto each other. They are kissing.

American poet Dorianne Laux teaches poetry for the Pacific University Low Residency Program and at North Carolina State University, where she is Poet-in-Residence. “Kissing” is from her collection What We Carry, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. © and is used with permission.

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