“Like a bee that settles on the fragrant pistils of a flower, and sips in the nectar for honey, so should you sip in the nectar from between the lips of your love,” counseled an illustrated field guide to kissing the year my grandmother was born. Why we kiss continues to puzzle scientists. That we do is one of life’s great felicities.

That is what Tim Seibles celebrates in his luscious poem “First Kiss.” Published in his 2004 book Buffalo Head Solos (public library) — a largehearted lyric effort to help people “enlarge their grasp of what being alive means” — it comes alive afresh in a wondrous animated short film by Hannah Jacobs (who has also animated Emily Dickinson’s ode to resilience and the most important eclipse in the history of science).

FIRST KISS
by Tim Seibles

for Lips
Her mouth
fell into my mouth
like a summer snow, like a
5th season, like a fresh Eden,
like Eden when Eve made God
whimper with the liquid
tilt of her hips —
her kiss hurt like that —
I mean, it was as if she’d mixed
the sweat of an angel
with the taste of a tangerine,
I swear. My mouth
had been a helmet forever
greased with secrets, my mouth
a dead-end street a little bit
lit by teeth — my heart, a clam
slammed shut at the bottom of a dark,
but her mouth pulled up
like a baby-blue Cadillac
packed with canaries driven
by a toucan — I swear
those lips said bright
wings when we kissed, wild
and precise — as if she were
teaching a seahorse to speak —
her mouth so careful, chumming
the first vowel from my throat
until my brain was a piano
banged loud, hammered like that —
it was like, I swear her tongue
was Saturn’s 7th moon —
hot like that, hot
and cold and circling,
circling, turning me
into a glad planet —
sun on one side, night pouring
her slow hand over the other: one fire
flying the kite of another.
Her kiss, I swear — if the Great
Mother rushed open the moon
like a gift and you were there
to feel your shadow finally
unhooked from your wrist.
That’d be it, but even sweeter —
like a riot of peg-legged priests
on pogo-sticks, up and up,
this way and this, not
falling but on and on
like that, badly behaved
but holy — I swear! That
kiss: both lips utterly committed
to the world like a Peace Corps,
like a free store, forever and always
a new city — no locks, no walls, just
doors — like that, I swear,
like that.

Complement this ode to kissing with three animated odes to other dazzlements of being alive: Emily Dickinson’s ode to flowers, Tracy K. Smith’s ode to stars, and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ode to mortality.



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