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the boy i never kissed, a poem

the boy i never kissed italian renaissance painting

The Boy I Never Kissed

(originally published in Images Inscript)

Michael’s hands are callused, rough and hard;
their worshiping touch is tender as a mother’s.
His voice is quiet, alto, his eyes dewy, downcast

in shy admiration. A forelock of wavy brown
Italian hair cascades over his high forehead
like a Renaissance crown, but his way of approach

is simply too respectful, too frightening.
I know nothing will come of this attraction,
though we sit talking for endless hours

in his old silver Barracuda after midnight,
the smothering summer darkness pressing
against my skin, raising beads of sweat

which I do not brush away, but allow to roll
slowly down between my breasts, turning my nerves
into taut straining wires. My skin is made of glass,

it will crack any second. He tells me sadly
of his foolish sister, Cherie, how she allows
boys she does not love to touch her. He has tried

to protect her, like the mythical big brother
I always craved. Under the golden streetlights,
in his greasy fry-cook’s uniform, his skin turns dusky,

going beyond olive into the baroque region
of infinite mystery. Then he was too good for me;
too noble to kiss. I made him love me from afar,

pushing the moment past, distancing my heart
from damage, keeping forever safe the memory
of such fragile, old-fashioned courtliness.

Where is the man now? Does he remember me, too,
as something far greater than any realized pleasure;
as a delicate, indelible dream of lost love?


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