rarely arrives with torches and the company
of soldiers. It is the true intimacy: private.
The kiss is not, as a rule, preceded
by forecast or preemptive forgiveness.
There exists no faith founded upon its reception.

The kiss of death is not given in haste.
It does not soar through the air on arrows,
does not pound positions on a battlefield,
does not rip through ribs on an assassin’s knife.
Its violence is incremental, uneasily detected.

Nor is the kiss cold. It is not of marble
or of ice and does not thicken blood.
It asks no ghastliness to prompt its shiver.
Fresh as clean linen, delicate as your wrist,
it is felt in the slightest pressure, a caress.

The kiss is nothing if not subtle, and not
a few remain oblivious to its attentions:
they believe it to be cobwebs on their lips,
breezes in their hair, hair brushing brows.
They mistake it for sunlight on their skin.

Light as an eyelash, soft as thought,
the kiss is often missed, but some persist
in sensing their persistent familiar.
They grasp what spasm is prepared,
the greedy consummation that awaits.

There is a mortal rapture in all things.
The informed, the uninnocent, those
adequately versed, know every fear
is the same fear, and that its kiss
becomes us as the air we breathe.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 Number 5, on page 38
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