When is a kiss more than just a kiss?
Read for yourself.
by Ellen Bass
At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.
Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching —
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.
But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after — if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now — you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.
This poem made me sigh, smile, and swoon.
Such a kiss! Sounds like the stuff of movies, doesn’t it?
Airport kisses, whether heartfelt hellos or tearful goodbyes, are in a category all their own. Whenever I see people kissing at an airport, I wonder how long it’s been since they last saw each other, or how long it’ll be before they see each other again.
I may be slightly partial, but I think kisses at the Daniel K. Inouye (Honolulu) International Airport are the best — because they often come with flower lei. Doesn’t matter whether you’re coming or going, a lei with a kiss is a beautiful expression of aloha, something I grew up with and took for granted until I moved to the mainland.
To me the airport was a magical place — the fragrance of plumeria stirred my wanderlust, and it was the best place for people watching. During my teens, my friends and I frequented the airport — sometimes it was just a cool place to hang out and dream about taking trips to faraway places. Other times, it was the frenzied excitement of greeting rock stars passing through for arena concerts.
In fact, presenting lei to our favorite musicians gave us the perfect “excuse” to kiss them! 😀 Count among my most memorable airport lei kisses: Felix Cavaliere (Rascals), David Crosby (Byrds), Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), Sonny Bono, Peter Tork (Monkees), and the strangest one of all: Jim Morrison of the Doors.
Usually we made our own lei, using whatever backyard flowers were in season. But when the Doors were scheduled to leave Honolulu in the summer of 1968, my friends and I made necklaces from watermelon seeds (this was when everyone wore beads of some sort).
We went to the departure gate, but not a Door in sight. We were very disappointed and started to walk away when we heard a woman’s voice over the PA system: “James Morrison, paging James Morrison, to the Information Desk, please.”
Could it be?
We flew to the Information Desk. Almost there, we spotted him. Dark brown leather pants, flowing white button down shirt, silver stamped concho belt. Sultry, mysterious, expressionless. Jim Morrison wasn’t the kind of star one ran up to, screaming like a maniac. After all, this was a man with a cosmic aura.
The very picture of restraint, we approached cautiously. With trembling hands and a pounding heart, I placed my watermelon seed necklace around his neck and gave him a very quick peck on the cheek.
He didn’t say a word. He didn’t gaze at me as if I was “the first sunrise seen from the Earth.” But I had kissed the Lizard King and time stood still. This close encounter with my idol seared itself forever in my memory.
But back to Ellen Bass’s wonderful poem.
If only we could all be as open and spontaneous as the couple she describes, whose passionate, public kiss stopped everyone in their tracks. As others look on with disbelief, a little envy and longing, they can’t help but share in the couple’s joy and love.
Bass’s poem inspires us to be fearless about living in the moment and expressing our feelings — especially when they are positive and capable of uplifting others.
Essential truth: human beings live to love and be loved. We can never have enough love. Let’s not be so stingy about showing it. Life’s too short to hold back.
Do take a look at A Constellation of Kisses, where you’ll find all manner of smooch-worthy poems. You’ll be reminded of your own memorable kisses, with lots of chances to consider the kiss in different emotional contexts, good and bad.
Before you slip into unconsciousness
I’d like to have another kiss
Another flashing chance at bliss
Another kiss, another kiss
~ Jim Morrison (The Crystal Ship, 1967)
What’s your most memorable airport kiss?
A CONSTELLATION OF KISSES
edited by Diane Lockward
Terrapin Books, 2019
Poetry Anthology, 202 pp.
*Contains 100+ poems by some of our finest contemporary poets
The lovely and talented Elizabeth Steinglass is hosting the Roundup today. Be sure to stop by to check out the full menu of delectable poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend!
Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.