It wasn’t, for a long time, about sex, but the thrilling tide
of mouths. Kissing, what they asked us to do in school
if we dropped the siddur or anything with the word god.
We were kids, 7, 8, 9 years old, clumsy, so there was a lot
of kissing. Girl’s mouths on the blue spine of the prayer book
which was said to hold the weight of god, so we were
kissing the entire universe. But the book didn’t kiss back, neither did
the metal bar of my headboard that I loved to practice on, nor the men
and women who kissed in the movies, the kissing I found so
exciting and intangible. In front of adults
I always pretended to find kissing disgusting, too afraid to
admit to this wild thing inside me that ached, how all I wanted
was for one of the movie stars to reach through the glass
and show me what the tongue can do. First kiss, girl in
middle school who stabbed her tongue into my mouth.
When I pulled away, she pulled me back.
How could I forget the pre-kiss from the girl I loved—
my bully and my infatuation—how she laid
her long and beautiful body atop mine and put her entire face
into my neck giving me the gift of her breath, but not, ever,
giving me enough, so in this way my desire was always full.
And finally the boys. The boys who kissed badly,
the boys who kissed ok, and the few
who kissed so excellently, sex still felt beside the point.
Esther Perel says the kiss you imagine giving can be better
than the real thing—the sweet gift of the imagination,
how we can live in and make it anything we want—
and usually I would agree, but instead I feel as though
I have discovered kissing for the first time.
With you, baby, your mouth is an ocean
inviting me to swim.
Brooke Sahni is the author of Before I Had the Word (Texas Review Press, 2021),
which won the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, selected by Maggie Smith. She is also the author
of Divining (Orison Books, 2020), which won the Orison Chapbook Prize. Other work has
appeared in journals such as Denver Quarterly, 32 Poems, The Missouri Review, Prairie
Schooner, Nimrod, the Massachusetts Review, Boulevard and elsewhere.