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,
despite my noble efforts,
will never quite understand what it has been for me.