Archives for posts with tag: Romance

elliott erwitt california Kiss, Malibu 1955
How to Kiss a Woman
by Jon Pearson

First, go out and buy yourself a box of matches,
stove lighting matches, the long wooden ones.
You got that, pal? Cuz someday you gonna
have to learn the fine art of listening. So, you got
your matches. Now get yourself a pitcher of milk,
a can of worms, and a map of South America.
Just do it. You come here for advice and I’m givin’ it
to you. First damn thing is to learn to follow directions.
What kind of kisser you think you can be without
you can follow directions. Now, get yourself two
saw horses and a tank of live lobsters and set that up
in the backyard. Of course near an outlet so you can
plug in the tank and keep the water warm. Good.
Now stick up a couple of liquor stores to get the juices
flowing. Leave the money on the way out, no need
to be an asshole. Take off your shoes, put them under
your bed, and walk barefoot to Algernon, Mississippi.
It’s a small town, lovely little smells, nice people.
Get a root beer float at Kathy’s next to the laundromat.
Then, shut up. Get very quiet and start feeling
southward from the corners of your mouth. Stop
for once being a damn man and start feeling something
from the corners of your mouth. Run your tongue over
your lips and lapse back into childhood. Make it up.
Now pour the milk over yourself…not for real…
now light yourself on fire…and start feeling all

PHOTO: California Kiss (Malibu, 1955) by Elliott Erwitt, All Rights Reserved.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote “How to Kiss a Woman” at breakneck speed. I wanted to see if I could write something without stopping or correcting or futzing. It was fun because my head felt like a wind tunnel. I felt sucked forward by a what? a power greater than myself or, at least, greater than my hope-I-get-this-right self. I often begin with whatever stray title flies into my mind and then run with it. Usually what happens then is a “voice” takes over, a character, and as the character speaks I write as fast as I can to keep up. I like to write quickly to outstrip my inner critic and tap the wild, candid river of thinking “beneath” my thinking. But this was especially fast. It felt like I was driving blindfolded without brakes. Not something I would recommend. Except, of course, on the page.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A writer, speaker, artist, and creative thinking consultant, Jon Pearson has been a cartoonist for the Oakland Tribune, an extra for the New York Metropolitan Opera, a college professor, and a mailman. His work was nominated for a 2016 and a 2014 Pushcart Prize, as well as a 2014 Million Writers Award, and has appeared in Baltimore Review, Barely South Review, Barnstorm, Carve, The Citron Review, Crack the Spine, Faultline, Forge, Hobart, Lake Effect, Pretty Owl Poetry, Reed Magazine, Sou’wester, Stickman Review, Superstition Review and elsewhere. Find him online at

PHOTO: The author with his wife, Elya Braden.

by James Penha

We were staying over in the living room
of our besties—she . . . and he whom I loved

obsessively to no physical avail but with
whom I remained colleague, editor, muse

philosopher, and madman poet partner—
anything to remain close. He held as well

as my heart the truth I steeled to share
with Mary my longtime girlfriend

as we finished off the cheese and sangria
sedative for the night on the living room

carpet. I have to tell you, I said, something
serious—You’re sick! she interrupted. No!

She’d felt my melancholia so often, she said,
she feared I was dying. And so she saw

a cloud lifting. But it was my mask needed
lifting before Mary. The phantom must

be faced tonight! I used to think, I said,
I could never love anyone until I found

him (sleeping now with his wife not me
in their bed) whom I loved more—veil

gone—than I could ever love Mary —I I I
cared for her even so! and therefore had

to be honest before we got carried away
into some some some thing apparently

normal because, I had to make crystalline
in this void of night and peculiar silence

that I was gay.
                        We had watched Monty
Python that night with our friends but
nothing flying in its circus matched
the absurdity as I turned for her reaction.

Mary? The solace secured in my survival
had cloaked her in a sound and soundless sleep.

PAINTING: “The Three Masks” by Juan Gris (1923).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his verse appeared in 2019 in Headcase: LGBTQ Writers & Artists on Mental Health and Wellness (Oxford UP), Lovejets: queer male poets on 200 years of Walt Whitman (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Follow him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

90s Cipri

Turning Sweet Sixteen
by Ava C. Cipri

My first job, as in filling out tax forms and receiving a W-2. I just turned 16, and was driving my brother’s red Buick Skylark station wagon. I landed my job in a sporting goods store, Herman’s, in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. It was suburbia, a few miles from my inner city residence. I remember lying about my favorite subjects to land it, saying algebra and chemistry. Let’s face it no one wanted a cashier that favored literature. I remember applying because I wanted the discount; I had my eye on a new tennis racket. In truth, there was a certain guy in the tennis department. Standing from the register strip-searching everything for security tags, I’d look back at him stringing rackets watching his wavy blonde bangs fall across his face. It was epic; just like that barn stall scene from The Princess Bride when Leslie looks through his bangs at Princess Buttercup and says, “as you wish.” His name was Dave. He was three years my senior, 19, and I had never desired anything so much.

One night, after closing, the car’s cassette deck blasting the Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, I backed into a delivery truck. After assessing the minor damage, I turned around. Dave was in the dark, and it began to rain. This is where I fall in love. There, in the pouring down rain, we stood soaked talking for nearly a half-hour; I can’t remember the conversation, only neither of us pulled away. Back in his Oldsmobile shivering it was the first time I heard the Dead Milkmen and The Sex Pistols. It was the first time I clung to a man’s body drowning out the world to Sid Vicious crooning “My Way”; steaming up the windows.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Sixteen-year-old-me (trying to look older) in early 90s with either New Order or Erasure playing in the background. The photo was taken by a friend and partner in crime; we were experimenting with hair, makeup, and fashion before going out.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I knew immediately when writing about my first job that it meant writing about my first love. At first it was difficult to reign in the writing because there were so many memories from the drafting process brought up, but I focused on the most pertinent.

Current Cipri

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ava C. Cipri is a poetry editor for The Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art. Ava holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she served on the staff of Salt Hill. Her poetry and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in decomP, FRiGG, Literary Orphans, Noble / Gas Qtrly, and Room, among others. Ava’s first chapbook Queen of Swords is forthcoming this fall 2017 from dancing girl press. In her sister-life she is a Reiki practitioner, belly dancer, dog trainer and collects tarot decks. She resides at and tweets at @AvaCCipri.

The Letter You Should Have Sent
found by Paul Andrews

Dear Eva, I like you very much. My impression of you is of a very kind, intelligent and gifted person. I can only assume that you are thinking about the future, like all of us are. I have been thinking about the future, what sort of life I would like to try to live, what sort of person I would like to try to be with. I think that I would like to continue with academia in some way. If I’m lucky, I’ll wind up becoming a librarian or an editor or a proofreader. Any job close to manuscripts of some kind will be satisfying. I don’t want anything more than that, and wouldn’t know what to do with it. There are several things I would like to do with my life: I would like to read a lot, visit foreign countries someday, and write a lot. I would also like to find someone to share my life with. And, if I am lucky, I will be with someone like you. Thank you for your company. You should know, if you don’t already, that you are a magical person. P.

IMAGE: “Portrait of a Seated Person Holding a Letter” by Salvador Dali (1923).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I found this poem on a public bus.

jerry w. mcdaniel
I found you in a jewelry store on a side street in Madrid
by Lourdes A. Gautier

Two young lovers, arms around each other’s waist
Strolled the streets of Madrid biding time
Till lunch when restaurants opened and shops closed for siesta.

A jewelry store window beckoned as gleaming gold
Captured my eye and I tugged at your arm
Gently pulling you inside hoping there was something we could afford.

We chose a charm for my bracelet that would remind us of our trip.
Finally a most perfect circle of gold crowned with a bit of turquoise
Made a bid for my affection for the blue reminded me of the

The shopkeeper sensed our reluctance to spend more.
He, a kind, older gentleman with a soft spot for young love
Placed the ring on my finger where it clearly belonged.

I wore it through the rest of our time in Spain.
Went snorkeling with it on in Costa Brava as it became
A repository of memories, I loved it and you for giving it to me.

A month passed and we found ourselves in Amsterdam.
Arrived too late to secure a bed and breakfast, forced to become
Homeless for our first night, we walked the streets to stay awake.

Fatigue set in and we found a bench near the end of the trolley line.
I looked at my hands only to find my ring missing.
It had slipped off unnoticed thanks to the cold and weight lost since

Three o’clock in the morning, rats scurried along the streets to the canal.
You promised we would find it and somehow on the wide boulevard
There in the middle of the street you were the first to spot it.

What were the chances that anything lost on such a major thoroughfare
Would be found in the dark and gloomy hours of an Amsterdam night?
We both took it as a fortuitous omen, a sign of good things to come.

IMAGE: “Amsterdam at 4AM” by Jerry W. McDaniel (2007-2010). Prints available at

Gautier ring

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: More than 40 years later, this ring still reminds me of the magic of finding that which we thought was irretrievably lost.


Lourdes A. Gautier
is a poet and writer of short fiction and nonfiction. Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and raised in New York City she earned a Masters degree in Theatre and post graduate credits in a doctoral program at the City University of New York (CUNY) focusing on Latin American Theatre. She’s taught courses in acting and theatre history and criticism at CUNY, Drew University, and Jersey City State University and language arts in a special grant funded program at Rutgers University. Her short story, “1952,” was published in Acentos Review. Her poems have appeared in Calliope and in the Silver Birch Press  “All About My Name,” “My Perfect Vacation,” and “My Metamorphosis,”and “Me, at 17” series, among others. She is also a contributor to the award-winning anthology These Winter Months: The Late Orphan Project. She has performed at the Inwood Local open mic night in New York City. Currently an administrator at Columbia University, she continues to work on a collection of poems and stories, and looks forward to when she can retire from the day job and devote herself to writing full-time.

First College Date
by Joan Leotta

My seventeenth September
saw me packing up,
leaving childhood,
for my freshman year at Ohio U.
Two weeks into my
new adulthood, standing
in a long line, I met a
real live boy from Cleveland,
fellow freshman who said,
“My friend and his girl are
going to Court Street (the bars!)
and then to a movie on Friday.
Would you like to come with me?”
My first college date!
That Friday night my roommate
helped me select a
matching skirt and sweater
ensemble — camel color
to show off my long dark hair.
From down the hall another girl
Colored my lips with the perfect shade
“to offset your too
much-studying pallor.”
(They already knew me so well!)
My date and his friends
picked me up at seven.
We walked to Court Street
chatting about dorm food,
whether we would stay to dance
at Steve’s College Inn,
or take in a movie after a beer.
We fell into line along the sidewalk —
lines to enter bars on weekend nights
de rigueur in Athens, Ohio, 1965.
One by one each duet and quartet
arrived at door for an ID check.
After minute of hesitation
over my out-of-state credentials
Mr. Doorman pointed at me and
bounced us all!
“You can’t come in — she’s 17!”
My protest resounded down the line.
“But I don’t even like 3.2 beer
I want to order a soft drink.”
He was adamant. Implacable. Obstinate.
All of those words.
We walked to the movie theatre
down the street and joined that line.
My date mumbled as he paid my ticket,
“Too young for the bar,
too old for child’s price.”
Don’t recall the film, only the
quick walk back to my dorm afterwards.
I wanted to assert, “I’ll be 18 in January,”
but I just said, “Good night.”
Never heard from that boy again.
After that night, I decided
seventeen at college needed an upgrade.
For my next date, I borrowed an ID
from a months-older friend so I could
get in to order my coke
while others suffered through
watered beer, returning to my
own identity only when the calendar
agreed with my self-assessment
of new adulthood, even at seventeen.

PHOTO:  Joan Leotta and her Dad — taken in her backyard in Pittsburgh, when she was 21 and could legally drink anything, not just 3.2 beer in Ohio.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood.  She is a writer and story performer. When she is not chained to her computer, you can find her on the beach or traveling. You can reach her at and on  Facebook. Her first poetry chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, will be released by Finishing Line Press in March 2017.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Taken in May 2016 in Spain by my daughter — I am about to eat a pastry, which partly accounts for the difference in my width from that youthful 1970-ish photo and the 2016 version of me.

Remembering 17
by Leslie Sittner

I met him in summer
first time away from home
a dry run at independence
before September college.
It was 1963. I was 17.

He will be a junior
at his college three states away.
this wasn’t like high school
no chaperones
no curfews
but drinking
working hard days
playing hard nights.
Come summer’s end
we go our separate ways.

Or so I remember.

He cyber finds me in fall
divorced, widowed, children
grandchildren, retirement,
living single, practiced at independence.
It is 2016. I am 70.

He phones, he e-mails.
He mentions that summer‘s two roommates
I remember one.
I remember the one roommate’s girlfriend
He does not.
He remembers the going-away dinner he splurged on
I do not.
He says we agreed to continue our relationship long distance
I don’t remember this.
He brings up all the phone calls
I vaguely remember a couple.
I fly to his fall Homecoming Weekend
This we both remember.
Lunch with Little Richard at his fraternity
This I remember. He does not.
Departing, I sob, give him a friendship ring
This he remembers. I do not.
He comes East that Christmas to ski with me
I don’t remember this.
He wants to know exactly when I met my husband-to-be,
were we still a couple,
did I cheat on him,
why didn’t I break up with him sooner?
I just don’t remember.
At 17 apparently I broke his heart.
I own only my memories of that 17th summer and fall.
No more. No less.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is me that summer. For some reason I’m strumming a ukulele─which I still do not know how to play. The photo was e-mailed to me this past fall by the man in this poem.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Coincidently, the first call from this long-ago “boyfriend” making contact with me from an internet search came just a week after I had been remembering that summer with him. Then this Silver Birch prompt appears. Hmmm. What does all this mean?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. Her stories are now available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and on-line prose at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, and 50 Word Stories. A variety of other prose and poetry can also be seen on-line at Silver Birch Press. She has finished a book about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her writer-friends do.

Following Seventeen Magazine’s Rules for Making Out
After a Late Shift at Dairy Queen
by Lisa Wiley

1. Soft lips are best. Carry lip balm.
Never use sticky gloss or gooey lipstick.

2. Relax! Odds are he’s been dying to kiss you all night.
Let him tuck the loose strands escaping your ponytail
behind your ear.

3. Agree on a radio station before you park
away from conspicuous streetlights.

4. Start with light, closed-mouth kisses.

5. Place your hands on his broad shoulders or run your fingers
through the thicket of his dark hair.

6. Limit tongue. Pay more attention to what he’s doing.

7. Once things are warmed up — don’t forget about behind the ears,
under the jawbone, forehead, collarbone dip, inside the wrist.

8. Be gentle — avoid hickeys.
Otherwise, your supervisor and parents will be suspicious.

9. Inhale the innocent mix of varsity leather and starched white Hanes
that you will never quite smell again.

10. Don’t unbutton or unzip anything.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My graduation photo, Amherst Central High School (Amherst, New York, 1990).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I dove into a pile of Seventeen magazines for inspiration and to remember what it feels like to be 17.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Wiley teaches English at Erie Community College in Buffalo, New York. She is the author of two chapbooks—My Daughter Wears Her Evil Eye to School (The Writer’s Den, 2015) and Chamber Music (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her poetry has appeared in The Healing Muse, Medical Journal of Australia, Mom Egg Review, Rockhurst Review, Silver Birch Press, Third Wednesday, and Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine among others. She serves as a regional judge for Poetry Out Loud and has read her work throughout New York State. Visit her on Twitter.

Equus or, First Night
by Laura Foley

A group of twelve
from a fancy high school,
on a birthday outing for one of us,
daughter of a slain Kennedy.
We sit together, watching a teenage boy
romping onstage like a horse,
my first sight of a naked man
we cap off with piña coladas
at Trader Vic’s,
eluding Secret Service agents,
hailing taxis in the street —
I hop, buoyant, in my trusty sneakers,
among this loose group of friends,
harboring a secret crush
on one of them.
At his house, emboldened
by my first taste of rum,
or strangeness of the play,
or the famous company,
I reach for him and
in the morning we
eat cereal with his mom,
while the bells of St. Thomas More
remind me it’s Sunday,
and nothing has changed
and everything has changed.

SOURCE: “Equus, or First Night” appears in the author’s collection Night Ringing (Headmistress Press, 2016).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My yearbook photo, age 17, at Concord Academy (Concord, Massachusetts).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem recently, a memory of my “first time.” It was an eventful experience, in more ways than one. Caroline Kennedy was my classmate in high school, and for her seventeenth birthday party, a group of us went to see the Broadway play Equus.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Foley’s books include Night Ringing (Headmistress Press, 2016), Joy Street (Headmistress Press, 2014) and The Glass Tree (Harbor Mountain Press, 2012). She won the 2016 Common Good Books poetry contest, judged by Garrison Keillor, and the 2016 Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, judged by Marge Piercy. Visit her at

Untitled at Seventeen
by David Bennett

Mary and I were swaying
back and forth
on her front porch
being snarky
when I stopped the swing
and the laughs that came so easily to us
“Teach me how to kiss.”

The class of 1963’s graduation approached,
and we were headed to different colleges.
My chance to straighten out
a crucial experience I was missing out on
was disappearing fast.

We hadn’t really dated dated.
We’d just gone to events
and hung out.
But we’d never been


Though I couldn’t articulate this
until years later,
it didn’t hurt
that her brother was a flat-out doll
who might occasionally parade around
in only his briefs.

“Johnny!” his mother said once.
“We have company.”
He came back with a chuckle.
“It’s only David.”
As though I was part of the family.

When I took a bathroom break
later that evening,
I examined his razor,
flecked with red hairs
that had recently adorned his face,
as if I’d found the elusive specimen
that would explain evolution.

at that time,
meant only “obstruct,”
Which I had mastered.

For the next few minutes
Mary and I discussed
what I’d just asked for.

“Learn how to kiss?
Are you serious?”

“I might need to know some day.”
A seventeen-year-old boy
and I’d never ridden the train.

She was game.

We took positions
— arms thus and hips just so —
and arranged our faces
with puckers
and low-lidded looks.

I took a deep breath,
closed my eyes completely,
ready to take the plunge
off the Acapulco cliff,

and backed off.

“I can’t do this.”

“Maybe you’re gay, David.”

I’d never heard the word,
but I knew its meaning

I gave her idea
a three-second thought
and shook my head.
“No, I don’t think so.”

IMAGE: “The Kiss” by Man Ray (1922).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As soon as I sat down to address the theme — something from my seventeenth  year — this poem flowed freely from my fingertips. It’s a vivid memory 54 well-traveled years later. The porch, the swing, Mary, Johnny, the razor, my sense of  being lost, my sense of the impending loss of a good friend. Many kisses later, I look  back on that confused, earnest, and wistful boy-man, whose temperate take on life was  still taking shape, and smile on him. Growing up gay in rural Texas in the 1950s was     not easy, I tell him, but it made him save room for charity and whimsy.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bennett made it to 71, after all. He solved lots of riddles and decoded plenty of puzzles and ultimately learned how to be in the world. Now, having retired from careers as a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist, he can say he made something of himself. He’s now in a death-match with bone marrow cancer, which is incurable. It will win, eventually, but David can point with pride to Pyrrhic victories over the last eleven years. He’s content in general but would rather have a different President.

AUTHOR PHOTO:  The author in a coffeehouse in Portland, Oregon, named Rain or Shine, in September 2016, at a showing of some tapestries he fashioned.