Men kissing, men kissing men in a movie,
women kissing, kissing women in the next,
then men kissing women, then women, men,
lips swelling into sexual pout,
tongues like petals in storm whorling
on a screen in the basement
of the Methodist Church. Not porn, not instruction
but an ancient lesson — adoration,
how the mouth without words is made holy.
In the diner after the movies, men kissing,
a blonde and a redhead. Over rhubarb pie and coffee
I’m imagining the redhead kissing me.
It’s good, as good as any lover,
lips so full I want to gloss them with crimson,
signaling to ruin, Pass over here.
In the shiny metal wall, I glimpse a smeary face,
my own, blurred enough it could be my brother’s
leaning toward our father, ready for a bedtime kiss.
My brother, little, kissing our father
my brother, grown, kissing our father.
Every night of the life they’ve lived together,
Father leaning back in the rocker, tilting his head,
his mouth toward his son, Son leaning down,
thin lips pursed, his nose, so like Mother’s,
brushing Father’s nose, his stubbled chin
brushing Father’s stubbled chin,
the two of them, homophobic and affectionate,
saying goodnight with a kiss as soft
as the first kiss of the men in the movie, the men
in the diner, soft as kisses I have given or received.
The Paris Review 132, Fall 1994.
J. C. Todd, winner of the 2016 International Literary Award’s Rita Dove Poetry Prize and a Pew Fellow in the Arts, is author of three collections of poetry, What Space This Body, Nightshade, and Entering Pisces, as well as FUBAR, a limited edition artist book created in collaboration with visual artist MaryAnn L. Miller (Lucia Press, 2016). Other awards include finalist for the Robert H. Winner Award and for the Lucille Medwick Lyric Poetry Award, both from the Poetry Society of America.
Todd is the 2016 Pew Fellow at the Ucross Foundation, a Fellow of the Ragdale Foundation, and has been a Virginia Center for Creative Arts international exchange artist at Schloss Wiepersdorf in Germany. Other residencies include those at VCCA, the Hambidge Center, and the Baltic Center for Artists and Translators in Sweden. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Big Bridge, and elsewhere. She is a faculty member of the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr College and the MFA Program at Rosemont, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
JC Todd in this Edition
Full and Empty: The Contradiction of Translation
Instant of Turbulence
Mock Orange on Wash Day
Morning After the Bombing
Necklace of Silence
The Suitcase was Stuffed
When the Envelope Opens, Open