American Life in Poetry: Column 768


Here's a poem about something that each of us receives, though only once. If you didn't get yours written into a poem, you've got it put away somewhere. Wyatt Townley lives in Kansas, and "First Kiss" is from her new book, Rewriting the Body, from Stephen F. Austin State University Press.

First Kiss

Here you are forty years
later in a white coat
examining my ears.
All I can think
is how your tongue once
turned in the tunnel
you're peering into.  The
fault is not in my ears,
but between them!
No one can see that far.
But could we gaze back
through the years and dead stars
to the doorstep of my parents' house,
you bending down with your tall mouth
to make the softest landing on mine,
having thrown off my balance
so tenderly, can you explain,
good Doctor, how to regain it?

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Wyatt Townley, "First Kiss," from Rewriting the Body, (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Wyatt Townley and the publisher.  Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.