The Kiss Takes Confession
Lynx Light

The Kiss Takes Confession
by Tess Gallagher

He was a man between two women,
that condition of amplitude guaranteed
to overvalue. He basked quietly
in their desperate spillover
meant to hold him. With honesty
as policy he'd kept each informed
about the other, as if honesty could
convert duplicity to some well-meaning
by-product of his foamy
approximation at consideration.
He glimpsed in himself the pride
of "character" which he recirculated
between them as sauce to himself,
an accolade meant to disarm
their chief suspicion, that he would
have it all, and scant of guilt.

The kiss, like a devouring beauty,
perched on his knee as he turned
the pages of his scrapbook. There
stood his young wife, glowing like a lily,
translucent in the blue frieze
of time, next to their child. She
does not know fate will comb
her skull with ashes. How radiantly
she wears the waxy glow of the candle
assaulted by its flame!
She was never, he confessed with a sigh,
his soul mate, though the years had "coded
her into" his DNA--which explained
this guest house he ran between them.

The other woman, he warned, would soon
step through the doorway. The kiss
drew herself to attention, and, not to be blinded
by barbarous light, slipped on her sunglasses.
Trembling and pursing her lips
she stared toward the entry.
A knock came. The man's face, resplendent
with welcome, veered round the room
like a drunken swallow. The likeness
of his soul stepped toward them,
wizened as a prune, this crone
whose tactile longings had the pizazz

of beauty and had brought him to his powers.

The kiss racked her shades, the better
to admire their mutual palpitations, this dream-love,
an emanation from the back of his mind
where the covenant of his unhappiness
was at last complete. Truly now, something
had to give. And it wasn't her.
And it wasn't him.

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Lynx Light
by Tess Gallagher

The quilt has slipped
my shoulders. And when
you kiss the knots
in my fate like that
it's as if a lynx
co-exists with a housecat.

Give me winter for constancy
and looking back: most silent because
most decided.

Teach me how to shed
this cold devotion
by which memory
is exchanged for alertness.

Come and go with me--sickle,
black tail lashing this
transparent net of birdsong.

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