Jack’s Naughty Bits: Johannes Secundus, The Kisses

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Jack's Naughty Bits

A few weeks ago I started writing about devotion — about commitment and our deep desire to have it shown — and I’m not done yet. For that week’s Naughty Bit, I tried to get across how difficult it is to express the true goodness of our hearts, how much love we have inside but how little of it gets out and how, even when it does emerge, it’s often misconstrued or unseen. Not a happy thought, but I think a true one. This week I want to talk about those times when we do find a way, when the necklace really fits, when the words come out right, when the shoulder is there to receive the tears, when we arrive with blooms in hand (and not just to make up). The human heart, like an under-prepared tourist, is not terribly good with the language, but sometimes finds ways of making itself heard.


Those expressions range from the comic to the sublime, and either type can be effective. To try to prove the point, I have chosen excerpts that exemplify each end of the spectrum. On the sublime side, there’s an absolutely delicious section of the small, soft, deft, witty and incomparably romantic sixteenth-century book The Kisses by Johannes Secundus. But first, on the comic side, I thought I might as well share a relic of my misspent youth: a list of anagrams I made of my then-girlfriend’s name. (Bear in mind this is only an excerpt: in my devotion, or dementia, I drew out fifty full variations.) True, penning a Petrarchan sonnet would have been a more recognizably amorous act, but we do what we can. As with most things in life, it doesn’t matter so much what one does to show one’s love, only that one takes the leap into expression.

    Is a polish to his nail
    Is a nail to his polish
    His all, his pain too
    I hop on a thin lil’ ass
    I halt, I splash in, oo…
    Hail hot lip, ass, loin
    Alias: hot loin/hips
    Ha, I top his stallion!
    Ah! ah! spill it in soon!


From The Kisses by Johannes Secundus
translated by Walter Kelly

Kiss V

When you, Neaera, clasp me in your gentle arms, and hang upon my shoulder, leaning over me with your whole neck and bosom, and lascivious face; when putting your lips to mine, you bite me and complain of being bitten again; and dart your tremulous tongue here and there, and sip with your querulous tongue here and there, breathing on me delicious breath, dulcet sounding, moist, the sustenance of my poor life, Neaera when you suck away my languid breath, my burning, parched breath, parched by the heat that rages in my bosom, and extinguish the flames that consume me, exhausting their heat by your inhalations; then I exclaim, “Love is the god of gods and no god is greater than Love; but if there be any one greater than Love, you, you alone, Neaera, are in my eyes that greater one.”

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Jack Murnighan‘s stories appeared in the Best American Erotica editions of 1999, 2000 and 2001. His weekly column for Nerve, Jack’s Naughty Bits, was collected and released as two books. He was the editor-in-chief of Nerve from 1999 to 2001, before retiring to write full time and take seriously the quest for love.

Introduction ©2000 Jack Murnighan and, Inc.