Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Kisses: An Essay

I wrote this in the late Fall of 2021 when the grim tide finally turned, and it was clear I would be allowed another winter or two at the fire with you. I don't know why it languished in my drafts. 


A name I will not say. 

What was lost and what can never be lost. 

What are weddings. What are dances. What are kisses. 

Morning sunlight on hemlocks, a roseate glow that make my throat ache. 

This poem is for you Chrisoula, Helen, Denise, Jessica and Dan.


I remember dancing with her, surrounding adults pleased with how we followed the steps. I could not stop feeling her hand in mine - soft, warm, a little moist - while marveling how our bodies executed identical moves. It was like gazing into a kind of mirror, one that reflected movement but not a discrete self.

A decade later, reading the Dungeon Master's Guide, I learned that mirrors need a light source to work. This was offered with respect to Medusa, i.e. douse your torch and hope for the best. Yet for me, having never once feared but rather always coveted a woman's gaze - as if outside rather than inside it one dies - Medusa was not a threat but a lifeline.

We walked in a circle side by side. When I lifted my arm, she turned in another circle.

I remember how happy she looked when she looked at me, the two of us alone in our perfection, a thousand miles and lifetimes away from the ones who applauded and praised us. 

That night - by where I later learned her father buried the horses he shot - Watts Brook gurgling in darkness - we kissed. 

That kiss was forbidden though how I understood this remains a mystery. It lasted only a moment; it was never repeated; we said nothing. A few months later, at the end of summer, her family moved to Kentucky. I never saw nor spoke to her again.


My mother taught me about secrets and the difficult loneliness inherent in keeping them. 

My father taught me that pain was a privilege, a sign of God's favor.  

I learned early what words were for. I saw even earlier the oldest paradox of monotheism: how can a loving God allow pain and suffering?

I did not run from answerlessness as most do.

Nor did I redress it, as the few do.

Instead, I collected quartz, licked the sap of leaky maples, and talked a lot to the moon. 

I did not deny my breaking heart.  

When, decades later, I learned gassho rei, I practiced gassho rei as if my life depended on it.

A crow followed me everywhere telling me a story about a fox who couldn't decide what to do when he was cornered. 

I turned myself into ten thousand sentences and each sentence into ten thousand poems.

I always know exactly what to say.   

Kisses are mirrors in which the one shared gaze grows still and quiet as quartz in moonlight  


So these were some factors leading to an early equation of God with (or as) Light, kisses as forms of divine revelation, sex a vital ritual of communion, all spiritual metrics that would last until my early fifties when crisis forced me into an interior swale from which I did not surface alone. 

In a cave established by Chrisoula - decades after the wedding, in a Greek village that was five thousand years old, before a space in the air where an altar might go - I learned that light and gaze are one.

God became Goddess, Goddess emptiness, and emptiness, essence.

There is nothing. This is it.

We dance slower now. We are practically still. Other bodies move around us like satellites, coupling and uncoupling. The world appears and disappears. Life and death pass unconcerned. 

The cosmos in its indivisibility has no name for us. 

(Socrates wondered about the man who named Her). 

I was confused when I thought I suffered and even more confused when I thought I was healed.

Over and over She reveals Herself and in revelation offers Herself.  

Says yes to Herself with my mouth which fills with kisses but not Her name. 

Proscription is the ritual by which we remember Her. 


And even then, my lovers. Even then.

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