Poem of the Week | January 17, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “The Gemology of Kissing” By Tina Kelley!

Tina Kelley’s Rise Wildly appeared in 2020 from CavanKerry Press, joining Abloom & Awry, Precise, and The Gospel of Galore, a Washington State Book Award winner. She co-authored Breaking Barriers: How P-TECH Schools Create a Pathway from High School to College to Career and Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope and reported for a decade for The New York Times. She and her husband have two children and live in Maplewood, NJ.

The Gemology of Kissing

            “Germs from everyone you’ve ever kissed stay in your mouth the rest of your life.”
            – attributed to a guest on Oprah. But I misheard it as gems.

A ten-second kiss can transfer 80 million bacteria per “a controlled kissing experiment”
(#oxymoron #mygirlbandname). Each studied pair drank probiotic yogurt
first, and smooched, and behold, “the effect of a single intimate kiss is limited,”
said the scientist who never kissed my high school sweetheart goodbye.

J was a moonstone, smooth against my palate, the full-moon toothsome sprawl
in the field of the farm where he worked. As for M, that ruby would’ve sparkled
on my left incisor for the ages, if I were into body modification, in which case
I might rather tattoo a pearl near my heart, where that kiss on the boardwalk

from R remains. The quartz of the kiss of C still cuts the side of my tongue
when I eat corn, and G, approaching with hope and a hard-on, is encased
in high school amber, while L’s was jade, a giant, amphibious kiss, lurking
behind my last wisdom tooth. D and S, you tie for the most romantic date,

but our lips never touched. You are sand, D. And ground glass, S. Forgive me,
dear P. You are opal, a spa-treatment of variety and light. I want to sing you a kiss,
though by now I sound like Brando, mouth full of carats. Without those younger
gems, how would I know to wear your diamond, a solitaire catching daily light?

Author’s Note

I’m inspired by imperfection, mis-heard sentences, song lyrics we’ve always gotten wrong — how “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” can morph into “the girl with colitis goes by.” I stole “sing you a kiss” from our daughter, who said it to my husband when she was about 7. Sometimes I feel like a puddingstone, a clump of mud that picks up pebbles and then is hardened, by glaciers, into a rock, a common find in the part of New Jersey where I grew up. Observations from daily life stick to me, resonate with each other, and grow into lines that build poems. Once in a while, kissing and rocks collide.