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First Love

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  • First Love

    First Love

    For N.


    She seemed to bob
    on her sister's matted silver bike
    not yet able to reach the high seat,
    working her way up car-free Penn Street,
    and I would make as if I hadn't seen her
    when she came pedaling past the window
    where I was waiting.

    After she was out of sight
    I learned what emptiness was
    and felt its keen brutal lance
    pierce through my heaving breast
    to fill the void she had left.

    But worst of all was evenings in autumn
    when she would pedal home
    down across Main Street
    out through the smoke of leaves
    burning at the street curbs,
    with the moon accompanying her
    a soft round lantern
    hanging above her in the trees.


    She was older now
    and we had gone our ways
    but she would come walking
    down Penn Street
    past my window
    every Friday evening
    at exactly ten minutes to eight
    carrying her violin case
    and I would stand there
    behind a thin curtain, waiting.

    Her rich black hair flowed long,
    at times a stray strand streaked
    down over her eye
    brushing back past a pendant earring.
    Once she came in a rainstorm
    and I, timid, rushed out to umbrella her
    only to watch her hurry off
    into gray evening darkness.
    But I did see her ravelled hair dripping,
    her face wet, her pure skin gleaming
    and her radiant smile,
    kindled only for me, I thought,
    betraying words she dared not say
    yet on her face was written
    what words would have conveyed.

    Ah, more beautiful was she then,
    mingled with the loneliness I felt,
    than she had ever been before.

    Often I would see her walking
    upright, buoyant, her visage shining
    her very carriage betraying
    her being loved already
    by someone worthier than I
    who had inched his way
    into what I thought
    was our walled-in paradise.

    Could it be just by chance, I asked,
    that she was thinking of me
    as she looked straight ahead
    walking past, smiling thoughtfully?
    What pain was caused
    by my inadequacy
    to muster charms I lacked
    and character enough
    to aspire to her high caste.

    How that loss has haunted me,
    that wound festered over the years.
    There has been no escaping
    no cure, no way back
    to where that treasure was
    that ever after I have lacked.

    Often I would wake at night
    trembling, calling out her name.
    One rainy night I thought I saw her
    through the curtain
    standing at my window
    holding out her hand.

    Then I remembered the thread
    we once said we had spun
    between us, tender and thin,
    each from our own end
    and fused where they met
    to bind us together
    for all time to come.

    Flinging back the curtain
    my eyes met hers
    and she smiled,
    like she had done then.

    In her hand she held her thread
    offering it to me lovingly—
    and I, with hands extended
    with fingers outstretched
    strained to take hold,
    yet all my attempts kept falling short
    of that precious holy cord.


    We were but children then
    in a Garden of Eden
    just made for two,
    where nothing else mattered
    but you were loved by me
    and that I was loved by you.

    Now the longing for that,
    my Long-lost Love,
    has brought you back anew,
    so I have begun to love you
    with that pure innocent love
    our childrenhearts once knew.