The first time I kissed you

The first time I kissed you

wasn’t when you’d scoop me into your arms

as I’d crawl on all fours.

Warm, strong –

your arms smelled of safety,

of dreams for a brighter future.

The first time I kissed you

wasn’t when I returned home dejected

failing to win the poetry recital contest,

and you clapped me on the back saying,

“It’s not winning but trying that’s everything.”

Your hand holding the embarrassment

that settled at the base of my back,

moulding it into courage

is what my 6-year-old shaky knees and trembling lips needed.

But I didn’t kiss you then.

The first time I kissed you

wasn’t when you looked me

straight in the eyes and said,

“The next time a man touches you without consent,

scream loud enough for heaven and hell to know

you are not to be messed with.”

I listened on, all of 13,

broken in places

I should have found love.

I listened on, willing your voice

to be the steely resolve that wrapped

itself onto my veins.

Seven years later,

as you were being lowered

six feet under

taking with you

unasked questions,

words of wisdom,

non-existent beer drinking sessions,

chants of ‘you can!’ ‘you can!’,

I kissed you

on your cheeks and forehead.

The first time I kissed you.

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