Kisses of life and death

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The kiss of peace in the Eucharist
blown kisses, others chasing away tears
Judas' kiss of death, CPR's of life
Georgie Porgie's, spin the bottle's
beguiling curls in front of the ears
Hardy's kiss on Nelson's dying lips

like Juliet's last, heartbroken kiss.

Doisneau's lovers in a Paris crowd
the kiss of a rolling billiard ball
John Smith's and Pocahontas' cross-cultural kiss
Rodin's swooning kiss, ditto Klimt's
a baby's wet kiss tickling your heart
Satchmo's kiss to build a dream on
crosses ending letters of love.

Manuel Puig's spidery woman's kiss
that kiss in surf from here to eternity
sad steamed-up kisses through plexiglass
Gene Simmons' great tongue Kiss
young cowboys' kisses up a mountain
the opportune kiss met under mistletoe
our first feverish crazy in love kisses.

His defection is a breathtaking ballon
from the Soviet empire to Paris
a leap from the Kirov on bloodied feet
to jete around the world's capitals
eclipsing all other male dancers
except maybe mad Nijinsky's ghost.
Surely, they gossip, he is Margot's lover
but such love is for the spotlights.
Tatar cheekbones and intractability
those flared nostrils, bouncy entrances
his urge, need, to prompt applause
also lights up the brightest A-lists.

When he is finally allowed home
by way of a thaw, and Gorbachev's Raisa
nudging her man to open the Iron Curtain
to let in a glint of western light
his knees worse than a footballer's
he is already dying of the new scourge
denying it, but his old mum who waited
his being a quintessential Russian tale
can't recognise or speak to him.
Snow muffles his dad's grave, the past.
Envious KGB agents watch him.
He ignores them, listening to Scriabin.

Such light shining on the snow.
His visa is for forty-eight hours.

Collecting old footballers
My brother leaves another message.
I hear his keening two rooms away
the wary gaps like accusations.
He sounds troubled, the machine his priest.
He doesn't leave his number, ask me
to call back with news, my point of view
just delivers his report, sadly.

He lists names of former footballers
he has recognised and spoken to
of bygone years when these men were known.
He shares nothing else of his life now.
If I pick up, though I've lost the knack
he deflects me, scorns the present day
his train of thought a reverse straight track.

Does he prowl the streets scanning faces
of broad men with awkward limps, lost stars
then zero in like This is Your Life?
Does his heart beat quicker when he sees
them run in those days when they were brave
when grand battles echoed long ago?
Do they stand between him and the grave?

Youth hostel friendship
The world spins hotter & still they write
across hemispheres, war zones
past & present reduced by biro
letters, lightweight gifts & comments.
Only death could thwart their turn.

Foreign stamps' familiarity reassures.
They reach for kettles, glasses
read prudent ripples of de facto success
rendered timorous by trivia
the promise of children as future envoys.

Their minds' tapes of half-afraid youth
replay travel's fizz, days of hope.
They prop letters on mantelpieces
measure the years' march
focus on steady, modest, achievement.

Ian C. SmithIan C Smith lives in the Gippsland Lakes region of Victoria. His work has appeared recently in The Dalhousie Review, Eureka Street, Heat, Meanjin, The Sleepers Almanac, and Westerly. His latest book is Memory like Hunger.


Topic tags: new Australian poems, Ian C. Smith, Kisses, Nureyev, Collecting Old Footballers, Youth Hostel Friendship



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'Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume/Labuntur anni' - Dear old Postumus, how the years fleet by! Thanks, Ian Smith, for a beautifully strong but compassionate and positive experience of time's sad changes.
Joe Castley | 06 October 2009


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