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My Father’s Kisses

I opened my eyes
to a tangible memory
of my father’s kisses

Hanging in the air
like an overcoat with pockets
forgotten in the summer
taking up space in the closet

As I shake off the sleep
a question takes shape
If I added them up over the course of my life
would my father’s kisses cover me?

On my cheeks and lips
in the crook of my neck
of love

My father loved to kiss each one of his nine children
his grandchildren and great-grandchildren
referred to by him as his “population”

“There are only two kinds of people,” he told us
“Givers and takers”
He gave his kisses freely and we knew
those who give receive the most

Even in the last fevered weeks of his life
with a hospital machine breathing for him
he puckered his lips and waited for us…
to do what we were taught

After the last kiss goodbye I mourned
the part of him that was always absent
compelled to purse his lips for a deadly kiss
against the slippery edge of a glass or bottle
a “disease of the soul” he called it

“An alcoholic is either thinking about drinking
thinking about not drinking
or he’s drinking,” he confessed

And when he wasn’t thinking about that
he was remembering other battlefields
killing men before they killed him
blown up buddies
digging mass graves for the murdered bodies
discarded by Nazis like household trash

If actions speak louder than words
then his kisses should drown out my hurts
the sting of his words harshly spoken
under the influence of post traumatic stress

Stupid little shit
and other figures of speech
that leave indelible marks on young children

Can you make it all better, daddy?
I’m afraid when you yell like that

I’m also marked by his kisses
How many will it take?

From the creased and fading underlining
of my mind’s lived-out stories
I summon them up
to soothe a new hurt

I touch my own cheek
to feel his phantom kisses
like a leg blown off

still feels real
almost warm
lighter than tissue

His lips
kept in shape by his habit of whistling
but with age it wasn’t enough
“I used to be able to kiss for hours,” he told me
“but now my lips get tired”

That’s okay, daddy
I know you love me


Post Notes:
My dad passed away this past November. I call the above photo of him “I’ll Be Seeing You in Apple Blossom Time.” The poem is one I’ll be reading tonight at the Café Del Sol Spoken Word Open Mic, and I’d like to thank the members of my writer’s workshop for their helpful suggestions.


I sure wish I could be there tonight to hear you read this, Colleen.
I'm sure there won't be a dry eye at the Cafe.
Very emotional and poignant writing. From-the-heart, gut-wrenching and honest. A writer can do no better than that.
Know I'll be there with you in sprit this eveing.

I DO apologize for those typos...."Spirit" and "evening" Sorry about that!

Thank you, Terri. I bawled the whole time writing it, so I'm hoping that I can get through it myself without losing it.

a touching tribute to your dad, thanks for sharing and I would love to hear you read it.

I'm crying - hard. That was difficult to read without balling all over the place. I don't know how you'll be able to get it out at the Open Mic tonight, but I know you will be able to convey, with honesty, the dichotomy that was the nature of our beloved father and the nature of existence.
We were so sincerely blessed to have been loved by such a one-of-a-kind human. His especially large spirit guided him - highlighting all his joys and pains, which can be called "LIFE" in capital letters.
Ultimately dad's lights were able to shine bright enough to shadow his worldy troubles and that's because he was a man of love. Thank God for that and thank God for him.

I agree with Kathy........but I haven't got over it.
I would never be able to read this one. I can't contain myself now as it is. I miss OUR Father so.........xoox

Though we all know we impact each others lives, it's reading your love story of your father that makes me sadly aware of the way I haven't thought through the impacts as I should. Thanks for the reminder Colleen, may your father be looking down on you tonight with all of the pride I'm sure he felt always...


What a beautiful entry, thank you for sharing it with us.

I love it, Colleen. (I guess it was your turn to choke me up!)

Beautiful writing, as always.

Powerful. Wouldn't it just be heaven if all little girls were the apple of Daddy's eye?

A lovely and honest tribute to your dad. Good luck tonight and God bless.

Here from Michele.
I see you are back. Hope things went well.
I'm sure your poem was received with tears and much applause.

This was searingly powerful, Colleen. Please let us know how it was received at the Spoken Word Open Mic.

You have such a profound way of using words to express emotion. I learn every time I read your work.

Thanks for all the supportive comments. Yes, Kath dad was a man of love, which is why what he saw at Buchenwald damaged him as much as it did.

Actually, I went through some cathartic stuff yesterday related to feeling vulnerable after posting this poem. I'll be writing about it later today. The Spoken Word night went WONDERFULLY. Some nice photos coming up too!

Wow Coll. I'm pretty much speechless. All I can say is I love you.


So beautiful written, Colleen..So very much from the heart....Thank you for sharing this soulfoul and winderful poem...such a sweet tribute to your father, my dear...

I have beeb on your site for a few hours because I got interupted before getting to thhis poem....lest you think I am lurking about, too l;ong...(*smile*)

Nodding at Carmi's note -- "searingly powerful." I'm mopping up my eyes and blowing into my hanky....

I would have enjoyed hearing you read this. Powerful and Beautiful Colleen.

I like the poem, so touching. And the picture? I ADORE the picture! Speaks volumes, it does.

I would have loved to hear you read this. It's a magnificent Father's Day offering.

(I wonder, by the way, if Michele Agnew has any idea what a service she provides?)

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