Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us


Poets Online Archive


January 2019

There are many kinds of kisses and many forms of kisses. We get them from birth to death. Though they are generally associated with love and affection, there are examples that are far away from those associations.

In the poem "Kissing" by Dorianne Laux, (read and hear the poem read), she examines some of this range.

"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
careers through the air toward a child’s
good heart..."

As Laux writes, we probably prefer the "long, deep, spacious kisses, exploring the silence of the tongue" to the "kissing when the cars crash and the bombs drop."

For this prompt, write about a kiss or the act of kissing in any of its forms or in many of its forms.

And you can get a jump on a call for submissions from Terrapin Books for a forthcoming anthology of poems on the topic of kissing. (The submission period is February 12 through March 20, 2019.) Publisher/poet Diane Lockward suggests "first kisses, last kisses, goodbye kisses, make-out session kisses, desired kisses, unwanted kisses, dangerous kisses, stolen kisses, romantic kisses, familial kisses, spin-the-bottle kisses, hot kisses, cold kisses, and metaphorical kisses."

And you can get a head start on a call for submissions from Terrapin Books for a forthcoming anthology of poems on the topic of kissing. (The submission period is February 12 through March 20, 2019.)  Publisher/poet Diane Lockward suggests "first kisses, last kisses, goodbye kisses, make-out session kisses, desired kisses, unwanted kisses, dangerous kisses, stolen kisses, romantic kisses, familial kisses, spin-the-bottle kisses, hot kisses, cold kisses, and metaphorical kisses."

On her blog, Diane offers as a model poem "When Sex Was Kissing" by Hunt Hawkins which begins:

"In high school I was somehow able to kiss
for three hours continuously without consummation.
I still remember the underwater feel of the car,
how the windows steamed, the binnacle-glow
of the dash pointing us forward towards the trees,
the jerky light outside of a diver approaching
the wreck, pointing at this window, then that,
the policeman asking if we were okay. Sure
we were!

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


She kissed you in your sleep –
itch of a dream that stirred you
from the sheets under a full moon.
You collapsed at the head of the stairs.
ER brought you back to daylight.
The next time, next month’s full moon,
the same kiss but harder. Hospital.
You finally tracked her down.
Nocturnal blood-feeding insect
living in our woodpile, or woodrat’s
nest, sucking mammal blood.
You were her choice.
I wasn’t jealous, just obsessed
with keeping you.
We’ve moved from those woods.
You’ve forgotten her like an old flame.
I remember walking out
of the ER, all those years ago
on your arm, amazed at daylight.

Taylor Graham


We kiss a lover’s lips
An aging elder’s forehead
The air beside a partygoer’s cheek
A child’s bruise

We bow to kiss
The Royal’s proffered hand
A Pilgrim’s weary feet
The Bishop’s ring

We kiss the dice before we roll
The winning ticket at the Track
A tail wagging puppy’s nose
The Blarney Stone

We kiss the trophy won
The medal hung about our neck
A dear departed’s lifeless brow
The Holy Book

We kiss with words
Whispered in the ear
Written down or said aloud
The brush of lips

Frank Kelly


James&Nora sitting in a tree
K - I - S - S - I - N - G

on a date on a June 16
writing “Oolissays” in between

for birth control sleeping head-to-toe
not good for the soul & a son to show

at his own jokes laughing
badly dancing, drinking, singing

the author was within, above, beyond,
unrhymed, kissing, like the God of the Creation

"invisible, refined out of existence,
indifferent, paring his fingernails.”

Pamela Milne


It was not an almost first kiss
Nor a certain hoped-for prom kiss that never occurred
Or a chance meeting with an old lover where eyes meet
And for a moment you can taste upon your lips what once was
Or that time as a child when you’ d fallen
And you very much could have used a kiss
More than the Band-Aid you were given
Before being sent on your way
It was not an I’ve almost crossed the line
What have I almost done kiss
That haunts us in our dreams as we lie in bed
With the only person we’ve ever really loved
Or once loved
Or thought ever really loved us
No, it was none of these
For these would have been so much easier
Jointly, infinitely
Each day
Since always
We’d kiss
Good morning and good night
But no, not that morning
You were in the bathroom, door closed
I was running off to school
I tapped
Bye dad, I’m leaving
But that evening you left us
The hospital called
And we came quickly
But they could not save you
“I’m sorry but he expired” the young doctor said
A description fit for spoiled milk
Not a person, not any person
Not my dad
Forever I am connected
To that night, those moments
That morning
And you
Behind that door
Forever unkissed one last time

Terri J. Guttilla


Under the unremitting clarity of a
summer sky they met, one last time,
to say goodbye. She, stiff and puckered
as a frozen prune, could barely force a
smile, a thin rictus across the swollen
softness of her face, like the blackened
lightening gash down the pine she stood

He put his right hand on the trunk,
leaning in to look her in the eyes, his
shaven head bending into shadow, his
newly-minted uniform crinkling into place:
“It’s only a year,” he said; “the war’s almost
over. I’ll be back before you know it. We’ll
have the biggest wedding this town has ever

His shining smile beguiled her, as it always
had. Her mouth unfroze, a salty tear prickling
on her tongue: “Don’t you go and get yourself
killed,” she said; “I can’t raise junior on my own.”
She patted her yet unswollen belly with her
right hand, placing her left on his bending face.
“Don’t let Curtis lead you on; he’s crazy. You’ll die

At that he laughed, a solid, good-natured
sound, as he drew back his head and grabbed
her hand in his. “I’ll be careful,” he said. “We
can Skype every night. I’ll be with you every
day.” He paused, looking up at the cone poised
above his head. “I’ll be able to go to college; I
can work; we’ll live with Mom; you’ll see; it’ll be

“We’ll live with my mom,” she said, smiling
up at him. He laughed again, putting his arms
round her shoulders, pulling her close, bending
down for one long, last kiss: A cloud obscured the
sun, throwing them in shadow, as he whispered:
“I’ll be back. I love you so.” He straightened,
gave a salute, turned precisely, and headed to the

Under the unremitting clarity of a
summer sky they kissed goodbye, she—
to have and raise a son, he—to
Robert Miller


The last kiss was far from perfect
He smelled of the cleaner he used on his smoking pipes
His skin was dulled in a thin layer of what looked like wax
The crying in the darkened room was old and weary
I was young and yet to understand he’d never be back
People stood beside the polished wooden box
Knelt, bowed their heads, mumbled a few words

I wanted to climb in the box: Wake him up
Have a sit on the big boulder in the woods
across the street from our two houses
I wanted him to laugh at a knock knock joke
Poke me in the belly with his walking stick
Say “Come on, kid, let’s go find some magic”

The box was lined in burgundy velvet
I hated that box then, now I hate velvet
The way it’s made to look and weighs too much
Years later after a cigarette and my first kiss
I cried for the smell of his pipe tobacco
the small worn leather pouch he carried it in
The boy asked if he’d bitten my tongue

Never again have I smoked
But that kiss: It was just the beginning

Patty Joslyn


Besame mucho mi amour or
a kiss on the hand
for a continental slant, just
a peck on the neck will
keep things in check

You can kiss your ass goodbye
kiss your pie up to the sky
romantic kisses in the dark
well attired or plain old stark
keep that puckerer spry

There are chocolate kisses
kissing fishes, healing kisses
for elbows and knees
goodnight kisses before bed
if you please

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


My Dad was skeletal,
Like he’d just staggered out of Belsen.
My fit, handsome father
Had withered away as we watched,
And wept.

A fall
Down the steps of a hotel in Katmandu
Triggered - or revealed -
A crumbling vertebra.
While recovering, he was diagnosed -
Somewhat belatedly -
With inoperable bowel cancer.

“You have a year to live,”
Said the doctor
During our gloomy, tear-stained consultation.
“With chemotherapy, you’ll live for two.”
He chose chemotherapy
With all the pain and suffering that that entailed,
And he was dead within nine months.

The last time I saw him alive
I knew it would be
The last time I saw him alive,
Lying shriveled in his own bed,
On his right side,
Unconscious because of the morphine,
Slipping away.

As I left to go back to London
I bent over, whispered, “Bye, Dad”,
And kissed him on the cheek.
I had a goatee at the time.
He must have felt it scratch him,
Even through the morphine haze,
Because he puckered his lips weakly
In a mock-kiss response.

That was nearly nineteen years ago.
The memory still makes me cry.

Robert Best


Hooded and veiled,
bracelets ringing thin
whip-tendoned arms,
the mother bows,
head down,
lips pursed,
to earth.
Allah, protect my son.

Late morning in the languid sanctuary
   light filtering through tinted glass;
Hands of strangers clasp,
   Eyes seeking eyes.
Good morning

The young man
   Too young to be so weak,
   so sick,
Lying wrapped in the recliner,
   stares helplessly at frantic images
   that mock his lost vitality.
Above him she leans protectively,
   as to a child.
Eyes shut,
   lips to fevered forehead:

The child jumps up in sudden joy
   and plants one
   On the old man's cheek.
His rough hand covers the spot
Ah, yes!

Like a noisy, boisterous angel
   the aircraft hovers.
By simple human skill
   saved and savior rise
   Locked in unintentional embrace.
Thank God. Thank you.

Joan Mistretta