excerpted from “On Kissing
by Meghan Bean Flaherty
{from Issue #10.5}

 

A photo surfaced recently: a mother tiger and a host of infant pigs in tiger suits. Bereaved mother nurses extra-species offspring! Animal kingdom a warm and fuzzy place! The photo was a hoax, of course. Some attempt at entertaining tourists by staff members at a Thailand zoo. Take pictures of this extraordinary act! They have it from the pig’s perspective too: Mama sow suckles tiger cubs. Maternal instincts indiscriminate! Tourists lined up to marvel at the gentle creatures while zoo directors bred endangered species behind closed doors (and sold those cubs for parts). Thank god for the Internet, lest we believe the propaganda and the ruse. Still, debunked and all, the image has its power. The predators and prey—they’ve learned to coexist.

Ever wonder why we are the only species to consume the milk of other species? So far just cows and goats and buffalo, but give us half a chance at Mama Tiger and we would likely hook her udders up for peak production, too.

 

Freud said we kiss to simulate the long lost suckle impulse at a mother’s breast. The impulse to seek comfort, nourishment, in another’s teat. Without delving too far into interspecies suckling, I’d like to talk about the kiss. Good old-fashioned tonsil hockey, pastime, treasure, institution. Smooching, necking, making out. For blissful decades of increasingly unrestricted sexual expression, my countrymen and women have been practicing the buss, the lip lock, osculation.

We act like we invented it. We didn’t. Listen to Catullus V:

da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum;
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Or: kiss me thousands upon hundreds of times and then that much again. Kiss me until we have to (shake the abacus!) hide the number from our jealous friends.

Calvino spoke of lovers meeting mouths like “serpents concentrated in the ecstasy of swallowing each other in turn” and “the process of ingestion and digestion” that turns lovers into eaters and eaters into lovers and all of us into cannibals.

Meghan Bean Flaherty’s work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Cactus Heart, The Intentional Quarterly, and online at The Rumpus, Asymptote, Treehouse, and The New Inquiry. She has an MFA from Columbia in Nonfiction and Literary Translation, and is currently finishing her first book, a personal history of Argentine tango.