One Thousand Kisses

One Thousand Kisses 

            I’ve been free-basing phonics 
                        in a room dark as the lone  
black jellybean stuck on the side of the jar 
                        a room 
            cut with light from a Coke can  
                                                   filled with paraffin 
and a homemade wick 
                                                   that juts to the side 
as if to light my cigarette 
                          in a thriller 
                                                    about a plot to steal  
the V from love or valentine 
                         or just vowel 
so that we can no longer 
                         say what we mean 

             for months  
                          we gave each other 
                                                  deep tongue 
and thought we were talking 
             the only two members of a tribe 
in Tottingham 
                          who base their whole language 
                          on glottal stops 
and the balsamic dystrophy 
             preceding cigars 
                        and kim chee 

hair wrapped in a turban towel she stands naked 
             at the sink flossing her teeth 
                          reading of paper catastrophe 
                                      while steam 
what is a scimitar she says except a silent c 
              splitting an infinite ocean 
                      what are we except simmering 
                                             on that sea 
                       from any conscious intention 
the next infinitive to brazenly split 
and me ready to eagerly 
swallow your spit 
                                  which I strangely enjoy 
                                  or enjoy strangely 

a feuilleton of diphthongs 
           lies crumpled  
           between the sheets 
                                  alongside a crossword puzzle 
devoted to black arts 
                                 handcuffs with spent Velcro 
so a safe word such as purloin 
                      is no longer needed 

             post-coital tristesse only means 
                                             her first thought afterward 
                                             was water balloons 
                       for the child’s 
                                                         birthday party 
rapt attention is now spelled wrapped 
to make use of the underemployed silent p 

wrapped in my arms 
she became a waterfall 
            splashing to a place unknown 
            even in Lonely Planet 
                                  and gazing into the pool at my knees 
                      I reflected on her essential  

a word just ugly enough 
                                  for the predicament 
at night the moon through the windows without curtains 
mirrors the bathroom’s LED light which in turn 
burns like an eternal flame lit in my heart 
by midnight sprites masquerading as advice columnists 
with a tendency to write “vulnerability is sexy” 
            without actually reading the letter first 

                                 Oh Oscar Wilde 
                      I could use one of your quips 
                                             such as 
                       shake yer moneymaker 
                       I can resist anything except execution 
                                                        she sleeps without panties 
                                             not as a lure 
                                                         just as if she forgot them 
                                             which is in itself allure 

in the far distance the icemaker rumbles 
            as if it has secrets to divulge 
                                 no matter 
                                 I’ll drown them in bourbon 
effacing all evidence 
of her past lives 
             everything except the lives themselves 
at night her cat walks over my body 
           as over a grave 
                                 and settles on my chest 
            to face me green eyes shining 
bearing witness to my transience 
then rubs its face in my left hand 
            initiating an act of divination 
                       to the rhythm of its purr 
                                  it licks my palm 
                                  over and over 
                                  as if kisses were words 


reify reify my soul mmmm yeah Jesus 
got the Freud got the Freud got the Freud 
mmmm in my bones in my bones 

negligée literally neglect given little thought 
                                  or attention 

I think about her all the time peach and vinegar 
            three fine snaps at the bottom 
                       a thimble keeping my fingers nimble 
as they tremble at the entrance to the world’s 
                       smallest volcano ready to reduce me 
            to ashes like the monstrous weather cooling 
at Mount Tambora tallest peak 
                        in the Indian archipelago 
                                                                   90,000 died 
                                                        so I don’t  

             take it personally 
                                            the odds of that eruption 
                       are one in 700,000 

in the pre-crepuscular pre-coital radiant gloom 
in the swoon of last conscience and first dream 
a dream in which her red press-on fingernails shone 
like the first stirrings of the window’s blood moon 

I took the free hand not wrapped around my cock 
in the twilight cockcrow of poetic paradox 
to kiss its splendid palm the one that had slapped me 
and she said daddy I adore thee please spank me 

I unsnapped the abovementioned peach lingerie 
as her loins warmed and slender hips began to sway 
and with sensual abandon gave her some swats 
then harder still harder than the riots at Watts 

there ensued a struggle like the conquest of Canaan 
troths, vows and oaths and an actual caning  
radical and true as the Protestant reformation 
transcendent and trite as the building of nations 

then I read to her from Keats’s Endymion 
of a beauty under-lit with whispers of demons 
an endless fountain of immortal drink  
pouring unto us from heaven’s brink 

and we ate Doritos straight from the bag 
and our minds turned to blank verse 
and she said darling what’s with that one teddy 
I have lots of sexy undergarments just ask 

then I awoke from the fever dream and lay shivering 
while God snuffed comets between finger and thumb 
yet I was grateful for celestial points of reference 
and the song of the lark as it heralded morn 

love is some wicked shit just ask Darwin 
            rhymes with darlin’ 
                                 about the origin of feces 
                        about those finches 
            with insensibly graduated beaks 

            we become what we must  
            moving to San Francisco to follow 
the waitress we banged thinking 
                       it was gonna be a one-off 

next you know you chuck that law degree 
                      and you’re a courier 
taking orders from the man grinding a bike 
            up a hill suffering aortic strain 
                       literally she’s breaking your heart 
                                  what’s left of it 

but then there are those chalupas 
                       and watching the tallow re-harden 
                                            on the Chianti bottle 

such sweet death within the breath of life 
           du dieu aveuglé as they say in French 301 
                       the joy of cardiovascular suffering 

                                                                                          as each cliché breaks apart 
                                                                               like a coconut smashed 
                                                                                          by a standard size hammer 
                                                                                it reveals the tender meat 
                                                                                          and fresh clear milk 
                                                                                beneath the rough surface 
                                                                                          the gift of irony 
                                                                                 cloaked in sincerity 
                                                                                           or vice versa 

oh flatfooted lyric 
with fallen arches 
thou hast trod 
the earth in steps 
measured and  
unerring yet 
to stand on tiptoe 
once in a while 

                                              I got sunshine on a cloudy day 
                                              when it’s cold outside I got the month of May 


                                             oh oh here she comes 
                                            watch out boy she’ll chew you up 
                                            she’s a man-eater 
                                                         then again 

                                             she took me to her elfin grot 
                                             and there she wept and sigh’d full sore 
                                             and there I shut her wild wild eyes 
                                              with kisses four 

                                                                               whatever the case I’m fucked 
                                                                                those wild eyes 
                                                                                should have been the tip-off 

on a trestle 
in the thistles 
I lay me down 
in earshot  
of the train’s whistle 
like Tristan 
when he drank the potion 
that started all 
that huggin’ and kissin’ 
then the poison 
‘cause in the great love stories 
it always ends with poison 

                                                                   let me smell the resin of my Isolde 
                                                                                      no matter how many times 
                                                                   she’s been bought or sold 
                                                                    her perfume hints at primordial ooze 
                                                                              and a shot of Jameson’s 
                                                                                          her favorite booze 
                                                                     let the cold stars wheel 
                                                                                                      like a centrifuge 
                                                                     flinging off liquid 
                                                                               in a great deluge 
                                                                      let the harps play sharp 
                                                                               and the trumpets hit b flat 
                                                                      while I handle her sap 
                                                                                                    like a sap                                                
                                in a trap

Johnny Payne’s work has recently appeared in Neon Door, Gasher Journal, Sparks of Calliope, Society for Classical Poets, The Chained Muse, and Soundings East. His most recent published novels are THE HARD SIDE OF THE RIVER and CONFESSIONS OF A GENTLEMAN KILLER, which won the IBPA Gold Medal for Horror in2021.  His books of poetry VASSAL and HEAVEN OF ASHES were published by Mouthfeel Press. He has directed his plays DEATH BY ZEPHYR and CANNIBALS for Slingshot Players, Los Angeles. 

About the illustrator: Edward Michael Supranowicz is the grandson of Irish and Russian/Ukrainian immigrants. He grew up on a small farm in Appalachia.  He has a grad background in painting and printmaking. Some of his artwork has recently or will soon appear in Fish Food, Streetlight, Another Chicago Magazine, The Door Is A Jar, The Phoenix, and The Harvard Advocate. Edward is also a published poet who has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize multiple times.

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