I went to an absolutely blissful festival at the weekend called End of the Road. Somewhere between Dorset and Wiltshire, my wobbly geography went out of the window as soon as I left Salisbury train station in a large cab filled with Swedes and Londoners. For three days I listened to ravishing music, sang in fairy-lit glades while people called Nigel and Dan played pianos, ate ridiculous amounts of ice cream and talked to people I’d never met before and might never again. It was wonderful.
While wandering around waiting for someone new to come on the Garden stage (surrounded by peacocks, peahens and chickpeas) I heard some earnest-sounding poetry coming from the Bimble Inn tipi tent. I don’t like earnest poetry, it’s horrid. One of my favourite places in London is the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, largely because it has a lot of Scrabble sets and cheap wine, but whenever you go you’re sure to have to navigate Earnest people talking about Art, and Stuff, in a tone that announces to the world the fact that they are incredibly Earnest about Art, and Stuff.
I didn’t have anything else to do so I went in, at which point I could actually hear what was being said and realised it was actually quite sweet and funny. He did a wonderful poem about kissing, which at the time made me feel absolutely right about kissing, even though it was in couplets which is a bit nauseous. His friends were sitting on my rug, and when he’d finished his set I asked him if he had a copy of the poem I could sneak away. At this point he started looking a bit worried – and to be honest, if some unwashed freak with a quiff the size of a tenement block started asking me for poems I’d probably run away screaming “FIRE” – but regardless gave me the copy of the poem he’d written out beforehand, as well as one called Eponymous, which turned out to have been written for his ex-wife on their wedding day. You can read that on his blog, but this is the one I heard. Apparently the ‘owed’ is significant.
Owed to a kiss
If I could hold your hips or hands
Or touch you places you can’t stand
Then turn around to face your face
We’ll kiss and feel our pulses race
When on the corners of your mouth
To dream my dream of journeys south
I’ll hold your cheeks in both my palms
And feel my back within your arms
A pause to help us catch our breath
This matters more than life or death
My fingers wrapped around your throat
The paradox and antidote
Into the fray I taste your teeth
The all around and undernreath
So soft and hard and right and wrong
Like singers of a wordless song
And bitten lips and nibbled tongues
The air sucked out of fondled lungs
Our mouths entwined in heedful bliss
Defining essence of our kiss
Mmm, lovely. One of my favourite things to do is to read the personal ads in the papers and see how people advertise themselves. You always take the piss out of people who put “kissing” down as one of their hobbies, well, I do anyway, mostly because it looks slightly incongruous when put next to “clubbing” and “fine wines”. But I reckon these people have actually got a point: kissing is one of those things you forget the value of until you’re actually doing it again. A really great kiss is just magic. It can be a gentle, thoughtful thing where you’re taking little exploratory steps towards each other (like shaking hands only a bit damper). A quick but tender peck goodbye. A lingering early morning kiss of pure laziness and contentment. A passionate, violent thing where you and the other person are so intensely entwined in each other that all sense of technique is forgotten and you’re almost swallowing each other in the attempt to get closer. (Admittedly, I’m less of a fan of the swallowing, but the excitement of such kisses makes up for occasionally being engulfed in a washing machine.)
Humans are the only species on earth who kiss, and it’s a weird thing to do. Apparently it started off with cavewomen mimicking birds and transferring food to their children, and progressed from there, presumably with knackered cavemen trying their luck after a hard day’s clubbing other cavemen on the head. I like the theory that states “kissing gets you close enough to smell the mood, food and recent adventures of whomever you are kissing, so you can work out how to handle them.” But really it’s primarily lust and investigation isn’t it? Well, not kissing your grandma obviously, that’s a barrel of worms that doesn’t need to be opened.