The Kiss: A Poetry Collection


WORDS + VISUALS BY JOHANNA STIEFLER JOHNSON / @JOHANNACITY


Drunk

The evening on which I died was 
Bittersweet.

My vessels pumped not blood but
Red wine which people drank from my
Mouth as they kissed me on the lips,
Imprinting farewells that
Laughed in all the chambers of my
Giddy heart.
My eyes were stretching skies and
I could see the world.

I was dying.

It was bittersweet because people
Frowned, though I was smiling; they
Drank the alcohol that warmed my insides,
But did not enjoy it.
I told them to dance to the music that was
Strung between my ears but
They cried between goodbyes,
Drank from kisses and only found
Peace when they were
Drunk –
Fast asleep, by which time
I was gone and
Food for many-legged centipedes.



While You Slept (The Curtains)

Sunlight slices lovers apart
Rough hands, anticipating day, tug on either side
And the gap between them, nonexistent when it’s dark,
Swells wide as a promise.
They frame the mild summer
As the sun – a gift to some, a burden to lovers –
Carves a path through cotton candy clouds.
Only when it sinks do lovers let hands, once rough, now admired,
Reunite them in the middle as
Darkness rolls over them with the
Tenderness day doesn’t see
And they kiss on the lips when the sun is long gone
Separating others


The Nothingness

I ask myself, are you still there?
Read my science books over and
over again,
trying to find a system between the
vociferously methodical little letters that make it
okay for my body to feel
numb with every moment I spend inside it, but
I can’t.
I walk around and
make friends effortlessly,
take classes that come easily to me.
I kiss boys under street lamps with lips that are
not my own 
in a body that belongs to somebody else because this,
this can’t possibly be my skin that is being
touched by foreign fingers, this can’t be my
laugh, my eyes on a teacher’s white board, my
legs in high heels 
dancing
to music that bursts within bones 
that cannot possibly be my own.
I look into mirrors and see a girl who is happy,
happy,
with bright eyes and a straight white
smile, happy, unbearably lonely.
I feel like half a person.
I touch my chest to make sure
there is still a jumping heart beneath my ribcage.
Touch my ears, my knees, my knuckles:
are you still there?
The boy under the streetlamp with his hands and his hair,
his spine, his mind, his
teeth in his skull, tongue in my mouth.
I feel so small that I think if
the stretching sky were to crumble upon my
head at this moment, nothing would remain of me but
a speck of dust
for the wind to blow
up,
up and
away.


I am the Moon

I am the moon
Moon
Lips pressed together like the
First foamy sip of hot
Chocolate, mmm, then
Pursed in an “o” so round that
Lollipops fit into it like a
Key in a lock, like a
Kiss
One without passion but
Soft, then
The tap of the tongue to the roof of the mouth,
Sealing the word in your gums and in the air and
In the sky, I am
The moon


Flesh

A momentary grin flashes
across your face, so
beautiful that I want to
capture it and
put it in a jar to
show to strangers on sidewalks.
(Melt their candlewax hearts.)
I’m a rounded stone in a river;
your voice tumbles over me everlastingly;
I feel the words against
me and
around me, but
they are gone on the river before I have a
chance to stop them, question them, amend them.
I'm suffocating.
Now
your eyes are closing,
and I touch your mouth with my finger
(I expect to be electrocuted, I expect fireworks),
but it is only skin. Pink and soft as a flower petal.
Why do I feel as though I’m under water?
Currents rushing past my head,
I can't breathe.
Yet when you press your mouth against mine,
it is no longer skin; it is
fire, it is frost, it is
something to inhale. Your lips on mine, I gasp:
I never knew air could be made of
flesh, of
taste buds, of
gums.

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