Some kisses make me want to blow up
everything in my satchel—wallet, birth certificate,
checkbooks and all. Headless dolls roll
out. I watch their plastic rib cages melt in starbursts,
drip like watermelons
onto the crater of my lap.
Through my binoculars, I saw a man blowing air
into an inflatable woman,
and she grew tall, and taller
still, until she burst, carbon escaping
until she muttered and wailed, all splayed
on the floor, glued there until he kissed her.
At this point I stopped watching.
Most days I prowl, a piranha
restless in fresh water. Some kisses make me eat holes
through wet kitchen towels until my teeth shine
with detergents. Some kisses
turn my tongue green, so even peppermints
taste like bile. Some kisses are scabs
too bloody to scratch, yet I scratch them.
How can I will the puke not to escape?
How can I stop it before it takes
leave of me, the way it did when I saw that man
kiss my mother in the dark
of their laboratory so many years ago?
Some kisses are not without
cruelty. Some things burn more quickly in the ocean.
Even now, as we stroll through the empty
city at dusk, as you lean in,
and I sand your face between my palms,
my other self is in the mountains
where the distance is safe and the tides are calm.
Copyright © 2014 Sally Wen Mao
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.