Image taken by Flickr user Holger

The Queen, asleep in the forest, her body laid out on a stone slab. Willows weave a canopy above her, the blanket that covers her body is blood-red, moonlight on her cheek…

This, like many fairy tales, centers on a kiss.

If the Prince finds her in time he can wake her, but he is unsure which path to take—maybe the ravens have eaten all the breadcrumbs again. If he gets there too late then she will never wake up.

The moral, if there is one, is that there really is no way to know when something —anything—that you do everyday, or even something you’ve done only once, will turn out to be the last time. The cup you drink your coffee from each morning—your favorite cup—is already broken. If you can think of the cup this way then you will, perhaps, hold onto it more tightly—no, you will appreciate each moment you still have with it until it does, finally, forever, break.

Everything is already broken.

My mother is still young—forty-two, still beautiful, still desired—young enough to start over.

The kiss that comes to mind, if asked, is the last kiss I gave my mother—it rises up, unbidden. It’s dusk, she’s upstairs, lying in her bed, coming out of—or going into—another migraine. It’s just after Thanksgiving, I’ve come home for a few days for the holiday. I’m living outside of the house by now, finishing up my junior year at college. My mother is still young—forty-two, still beautiful, still desired—young enough to start over. Her boyfriend’s been in jail for a couple years now (he got caught smuggling drugs), he’s up for parole in a month, but she’s been seeing someone else. I’ve been out with friends, likely getting high in our cars in the Peggotty Beach parking lot—these days I am always getting high. I’m home now to say goodbye, to let her know I’m about to get on my motorcycle and push on, ride back up to school. I climb the stairs to her bedroom, the lights are off, a tiny orange bottle of white pills within reach. Her eyes are closed, her blanket is red, her skin alabaster—maybe she’s a little high, or a little hungover, herself. The Queen is in pain, maybe mortal pain, if she doesn’t open her eyes she might never open them, the Prince knows this, he’s been wandering this forest his whole life, the breadcrumbs all eaten. The Prince leans over her face, as he had done so many times, to whisper the words that will keep her there, only the words don’t come, or they come out wrong. Vroom vroom saddle up can I get you anything vroom vroom see you soon. The voice coming out of him doesn’t even sound like him. Kiss her, it murmurs, vroom vroom, & so he does & her eyes open & the spell, for that brief moment, is broken.


The Kiss is a bimonthly series curated by Brian Turner.

The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers is available from Norton in February 2018.

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn has worked as a ship’s captain, an electrician, and as a case-worker with homeless adults. His most recent book is My Feelings (Graywolf, 2015), a collection of poems. His work has been translated into fifteen languages.

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