What a disappointment. Nothing like the movies,
nothing like the mind. A mass of muscles writhing,
an awkward hand on a tightened arse
at the under-sixteens “Angel and Demon Night”
What a farce. Is this the limbo
stick for life? Where are the fireworks,
the butterflies, the butterflies exploding
like fireworks into a glorious rainbow
of wings and ash?
My son will sit with me and I’ll tell him
the truth that there is no word to fit
a feeling of lust and immediate unrest.
Or the lingering taste, the pleasure, the alien
of a first kiss. There’s no word, I’ll tell him,
for the particular fullness that breaks through
the lungs and fills you with the breath
of their hair, for the sudden rush of two hands
clambering until the fingers find
each other and grip. Grip to that, I’ll tell him
and be thankful for the imperfection
of love and that the first kiss is nothing
like you expected.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2015. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2015 was Ken MacLeod.
The notion that a first kiss is a psychedelic experience and delivers a guarantee of compatibility is responsible for many a teenage let-down. I like how Jones describes the reality without crudity or sentimentality, and shows it as better and more important than the myth.
This poem is based on the real story of my first kiss, which happened at an Angel and Devil party held, bizarrely, in a police station. Having watched plenty of smooches on the telly, I had assumed that my first kiss would be magical and evolutionary. The reality was a let down. However, I believe that love really does transform us. It’s the selflessness of love that makes us better, more compassionate people. I like the unpredictability of love, in whatever form it arrives, and imagine telling my yet-to-be-conceived children that love, with all its uncertainty, is worth seeking out and clinging to.