Because I cannot remember my first kiss

Roger Bonair-Agard

 
but I remember sitting alone on the brown
couch in my grandmotherís living room,
couch whose cushion covers were of velvet
and the color of dark rust, or dried blood
—and sewn by the tailor from up the block,
the same one who made me my first light blue
suit two years earlier
             And I sat there running my hands back
             and forth
over the short smooth hairs of the fabric
and understanding what touch meant
for the first time—not touch, the word,
as in donít touch the hot stove or donít
touch your grandfatherís hats but touch
like Tom Jones was singing it right then
on the television, with a magic that began
in his hips, swiveled the word and pushed
it out through his throat into some concert
hall somewhere as a two-syllabled sprite,
so that women moaned syllables back in return.
And I knew I wanted to touch
like that because
Tom Jones stooped down at the edge
of the stage and a woman from the audience
in a leopard-print jumpsuit unfurled
from her front row seat, walked like
a promise of what I couldnít quite
discern up to him and pushed her mouth
soft and fast up against his mouth
and they both cooed into his microphone
mouths still move-moaning together
like that for an eternity.  And then
Tom Jones unlocks his mouth from hers
while my breath is still caught
in my throat, and moves to the other
end of the stage, and squats there,
and kisses another woman from the audience
in a black jumpsuit, while the first
woman looks on, swaying so slightly
I almost canít tell—to the band
which is still vamping the chorus line—
mesmerized and taut with expectation as I
am, palms down on the velvet-haired
cushions        and Tom pauses, sensing
the first womanís impatient almost-mewling
and says Easy Tiger while he moves his mouth
against this womanís, his cheeks working
like tiny bellows, before returning to the first
one and then the bridge or the chorus
or whatever—at that point the song
is an afterthought, and I knew there was
a mission to be fulfilled—Tom Jones
pointed to the women and said touch
and the new color TV made everything
shimmer with promise so my eight year old
body preened and stretched itself against
the ecstatic couch and dreamed of what
tomorrow could be like if I could make
touch mean so many things, if I could
make a building or a body coo like this.
 
Copyright © 2013 by Roger Bonair-Agard. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 14, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Further Reading

Poems About Childhood
"Out, Out—"
by Robert Frost
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball
by Christopher Merrill
A child said, What is the grass?
by Walt Whitman
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings
Babylon
by Robert Graves
Birches
by Robert Frost
Block City
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Blur
by Andrew Hudgins
Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
deer & salt block
by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Early Memory
by January Gill O'Neil
Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas
Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About
by Judith Viorst
For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall
by Ross Gay
From the Lives of My Friends
by Michael Dickman
Giraffes
by Kimiko Hahn
Going Down Hill on a Bicycle
by Henry Charles Beeching
In the Waiting Room
by Elizabeth Bishop
Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
My Aunts
by Meghan O'Rourke
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
My Childhood
by Matthew Zapruder
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
by William Wordsworth
Pirate Story
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Playgrounds
by Laurence Alma-Tadema
Pledge
by Elizabeth Powell
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
Recuerdo
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Solar system bedsheets
by Sarah Vap
The Children's Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Gaffe
by C. K. Williams
The Lamb
by William Blake
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Retreat
by Henry Vaughan
The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
They Call This
by C. K. Williams
To My Best Friend's Big Sister
by Ross Gay
Untitled [The child thought it strange]
by Richard Meier
Untitled [You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old]
by Rudyard Kipling
We Are Seven
by William Wordsworth
Poems About Passion and Sex
9.
by E. E. Cummings
Canterbury Tales, Wife of Bath's Prologue [Excerpt]
by Geoffrey Chaucer
A Greek Island
by Edward Hirsch
A Sequence
by Leslie Scalapino
Almost There
by Timothy Liu
Antique
by Arthur Rimbaud
Arts & Sciences
by Philip Appleman
At the Touch of You
by Witter Bynner
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips
Blue
by May Swenson
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Carrefour
by Amy Lowell
corydon & alexis, redux
by D. A. Powell
Elegy 5
by Ovid
Erotic Energy
by Chase Twichell
First Turn to Me...
by Bernadette Mayer
Fish Fucking
by Michael Blumenthal
Fixed
by Christopher Stackhouse
In Praise of Shame
by Lord Alfred Douglas
Kinky
by Denise Duhamel
Libido
by Rupert Brooke
Me in Paradise
by Brenda Shaughnessy
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
National Nudist Club Newsletter
by Wayne Koestenbaum
No Platonic Love
by William Cartwright
Novel
by Arthur Rimbaud
Poems of Passion and Sex
Prague
by Khadijah Queen
Privilege of Being
by Robert Hass
Safe Sex
by Donald Hall
Sex
by Michael Ryan
Song
by James Joyce
Stones
by Michael Blumenthal
The Ecstasy
by Phillip Lopate
The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D.H. Lawrence
The Hug
by Thom Gunn
To His Mistress Going to Bed
by John Donne
Undressing You
by Witter Bynner
Wild Rose
by Bryher
XIII
by Cťsar Vallejo
Year of the Tiger
by Miguel Murphy