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Dorianne Laux’s ‘Kissing’

Pushcart Prize-winning poet Dorianne Laux, whose work the Poetry Foundation calls “sensual and grounded,” has said that

Craft is important, a skill to be learned, but it’s not the beginning and end of the story. I want the muddled middle to be filled with the gristle of the living.



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.


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