My father kisses me on the lips

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in greeting or goodbye. He’s still six feet,
five inches; he stoops toward my mouth and embraces me.
It has always been the way of his family,
the aproned women, the work-booted men; you do not
turn your head, you tilt it toward the lips
pursed before you. When I google
customs of lip-kissing in families, the internet
appears wary—others have searched:
“Is kissing family on the lips appropriate?” and
“Why you shouldn’t kiss your child on the lips.”
One woman writes on a message board:
“Except for spouses, no, not normal. That’s why
I don’t like Angelina Jolie.” Does Angelina kiss
her brood on the lips? My father’s lips are like hers—
on the full side—though my mother’s are thin.
Her kiss is like a peck from the palm of your hand. I admit
to adopting the custom, but my daughter insists
she’s done with it. Stop, she says, as I lean toward her,
her hand braced at my collarbone for distance.
We kiss cheeks like the French, little stabs
at the air, like we met along the Seine
for coffee. I imagine her daughter’s daughter’s
daughter, dashing off for the bus
with a nod from her mother. There were mornings
I held my daughter’s face in my hands, peered into her eyes
the way the prince might have gazed upon Cinderella. Bus honking
at the curb, her yanking away, I’d call,
That was your kiss of protection!
I was never ashamed to kiss my father. When he wrapped me
in his arms, my chin would tip back as far as possible
to rest in a hollow on his shoulder.
MY FATHER KISSES ME ON THE LIPS by Shannon Castleton

Photo used under CC.

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About Author

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Shannon Castleton’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Zone 3, Sugar House Review, The Cortland Review, and Folio. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and lives with her family in Pennsylvania.

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