What Kissing is Like

For many years, my friend Derek has made a habit of asking me to describe for him what kissing feels like, because he likes to remind people that he’s never been kissed. And I usually tell him that it’s not easy to describe, and that it is easiest to know what it feels like while you’re busy doing it, at which point you can’t really explain the experience to a third party for obvious reasons.

So, despite the fact that I will probably never kiss Derek, here is a poem about kissing for him.

for Derek – What Kissing Is Like

To me, it is dark, always.

Then again, my memories of being kissed

in broad daylight

are few and far between,

and I generally close

my eyes anyway.

It is dark, a darkness which

cannot be assigned

any particular color

(though red does come to mind –


but you forgot, Derek –

you forgot to specify the kind of kissing.

I mean, there’s the careful, shy

good night kiss

under a porch light after your first date

just barely more than a peck, a soft pressing together

for only a pair of seconds

and you are suddenly very conscious of

how your mouth tastes even though

you are the only one tasting it.

There’s the big, slow, sloppy kind

reserved for being alone in the dark

and you know you can stop but you also don’t have to

so you don’t,

and there is nothing like reaching for a person

over and over and over again

and finding them each time,

reaching to hold you, too.

There’s the god damnit you’re making me angry kiss,

when you grab the back of their head and your faces

crash into one another in a desperate effort to hold on

instead of letting go in frustration.

There’s the laughing one,

they say that’s the best kind

but they forget that

you only remember their laughing face

while it laughs.

There’s the first kiss,

the one where you know what happened,

you know exactly what happened

but if someone asked you what you were feeling

no, you couldn’t say a word. Not if you

tried, and maybe you did – you’re not sure of that either.

No, you can’t even feel your face,

let alone theirs,

but somehow their face is the only thing in the world.

Then again, it’ll do you good to remember, Derek,

that kissing is subjective,

and I’ll never know what it is for you,

and you,

despite my noble efforts,

will never quite understand what it has been for me.


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