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.
Bio: J. C. Todd’s poems and translations have appeared in the anthology Shade 2004,
and in American Poetry Review, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard
Review and other journals. Pine Press published two chapbooks: Nightshade (1995) and Entering
Awards include a fellowship in poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, two awards for poetry from
the Leeway Foundation, a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts international artist exchange fellowship to
the Schloss Wiepersdorf colony in Germany, a scholarship to The Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators
in Sweden, and a stipend from the Latvian Cultural Capital Foundation. Her poems have received five Pushcart
She is an associate editor for the poetry web magazine, The Drunken Boat
(www.thedrunkenboat.com), where she
has edited special features on contemporary Lithuanian and Latvian poetry in translation, and she was guest
poetry editor for the Summer, 2005 issue of The Bucks County Review, and co-editor of “Recurrence
in Another Tongue: Poets Translating Poets” that appeared in Frigate 4 in 2003.
A lecturer in Creative Writing and in the Writing for College program at Bryn Mawr College, she has an MFA
from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.