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Learning To Kiss

Big Aunt Grace,
(that’s what we called her)
was huge, gorilla-huge,
and with her sticky sweet perfume
filling the room, she would kiss everyone
with the squeeze of an African python,
coiled tightly around the body
till all breath was gone,
and we’d squirm with fear
to be released.

Grandpa Scott, a doctor and pharmacist,
was always ready to kiss us goodbye,
always reaching to smother us
in his bushy full beard
and prickly mustache that reeked
of alcohol, formaldehyde and ether.

Surely we still feel that vice-grip
on the cheek that left a welt,
the aren’t-you-just-the-cutest-little-thing
pinch-kiss that Uncle Harold planted on us
each time he saw us—

the squeezing and shaking of tender flesh
between forefinger and thumb
that sent us racing for the closet
before he entered the room.

And what about those handsome Aussies
in their Navy blue uniforms, who visited us
during the war? Pipsqueak, a pet name
for sis when she was four-years-old, adored
those tall soldiers, and when
they placed a peck on her forehead,
she went running to the kitchen with a shout,
Mother, I just kissed someone.

Now that we’re ninety,
we thought we’d better warn you, kid.
Pucker up now-—
kisses always lurk in memories.

as told by Sugar Hill residents Diane Hopewell, Harvey Stephenson and Harry Widman

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