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The Kiss

[A week after we separated--well, after she left me--I met my ex-wife to drop off a few things that we had left at the dry cleaners together.  We went across the street to a Dunkin' Donut to have a cup of coffee and talk for a while.  We had recently bought her a new car, and she had not yet purchased a windshield scraper.  It had iced up while we were inside.  Upon leaving, she stood beside her car watching as I scraped her windshield for her.  All the time I was cleaning her windows, I had this terrible sense of foreboding, a fear that she was expecting me to give her a kiss goodnight.  
   I dreaded the prospect, because I had cut myself off from her emotionally.  I did not want the separation, I believed that it would be the first step towards divorce, and I still do not believe in divorce.  To me, she had crossed a line.  She had gone too far, and the anguish and resentment and disappointment that I felt towards her were too overpowering for me to cope.  In my mind, I had cut her off from my life already, much as I did when I experienced a loss in the family.  She was dead to me.
  But I had to kiss her goodbye, because I didn't want her to know how I felt right then.  I forced myself to kiss her, just a peck on the cheek, really.  And it felt to me as though I was kissing a corpse.  I had heard of the custom of kissing goodbye the body of a deceased loved one, how some children had been compelled to do this by their parents or grandparents at the funeral home .  I was appalled at the custom.
  Shivering in that parking lot that night, I learned what it must have felt like to be forced to kiss a corpse goodbye.  It truly did feel like I was kissing a dead loved one goodbye for all time.  And this is the story that came out of "The Kiss."]

The Kiss

The fool was I to let her go
Without embrace or fond goodbye,
Or even taciturn reply
     to disapprove the sudden blow.

It seemed another took her place,
A stranger with familiar face.
I know it was not her, for she
     concealed no infidelity.

I let her pass and saved my pride,
  Revealed no tears nor made lament,
But sorrow stored--no feelings spent--
     Now richly grieved My Hope has died.

I kissed her once with cringing heart,
Respecting those who late depart.
I know the child's repulsive chore
     whose mother made to kiss the corpse.

Tho' six feet down, she likes it there
And fills her days with simple fare
     And plans this weekend's leisure time.
What?  Can't she see her soul is cold?
She plans to come at Christmastime
     to be with family and fold!
Then let vane pleasures be her due:
     The ghost can still be happy, too.

Tho' she is lost, I suffer worse.
     I cry and grope and torment hide.
For Poe's Lenore bore less a curse:
     He lost all hope, she only died!

Perhaps my own Lenore abounds.
     Perhaps it's I beneath the ground.
Perhaps she knows the child's remorse
     whose mother made to kiss the corpse.
~Mark A. Rector