Featured Poem: The Kiss

By Scott Challener

THE CLOUDS ACHIEVE a storm. The trees achieve
a branching, some buds. The bee
achieves the vertiginous act of
pollen transport. But what we have
made is not achievement, not beauty.

The way, invisibly, the cane communicates
with the stamen of the floribunda rose—
these are not our channels, not our despites.
Their disregard for us, who stand near them
awkward and happy some nights for hours
talking out our lives, remains undiminished.
The great text is great because it is un-
written. What we do together when
we are lonely or our bodies greedy
is not a triumph of nature. What happens
to our mouths in the vicinity of one another
is not a natural but an irrational act, beyond
manufacture. Beauty in nature depends
on optical properties such as color and brilliance
displayed to maximum advantage. The barbs
in the feathers of the black-throated magpie
or the buff-breasted paradise kingfisher
participate in rituals of enticement and
intimidation as they participate in the mechanism of flight.
Pain in the trees, pleasure on the wing.
And below, the kiss, having nothing
to do with us or the calendar of our days, achieves
its forgiveless shape, silently maneuvering
our bodies closer to the rose bed.
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