First Kiss at Fifty

by John Wilks
The Write Idea
Honorable Mention, April 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum


She had grown to look exactly like
herself, while I had just grown older.
Within the first five minutes, we spoke
more to each other than we had in
five years of school. She had photographs

of the class, but I could not find my
face in the black and white uniformed
ranks. She remembered me more fondly
than I deserved, though I had become
all the things I once despised. I was

Mister Suit’n’Tie, Mister Safe Pair
of Hands, Mister Never Takes a Risk,
Mister Home, Hearth and Family. She
kissed me thirty years too late, when it
could no longer make a difference.

I took a train home when she caught a
plane back to Australia. As she
drove her motorcycle across the
outback, I walked from room to room and
sometimes out into the back garden.


I admire this poem’s ability to take a situation that could easily become a cliché and rescue it from that predicament. The poem especially soars for me in the last two stanzas, in which the speaker’s regret for a life unlived is handled with grace and power. The “sometimes” in the last line of the poem is heartbreaking. --Shara McCallum

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