First Love (revised)
At her bedside is a photograph
herself at eighteen
a portrait of ripe youthfulness
her lovely face cast sideways
with a sophomorphic smile lips half parted.
slanted eyes enthralled by first love
a birthday gift to someone long ago
with a private message in flowing script on the back.
She stares long at the photo
and remembers the young man
to cherish honour and support her
until he died
and that eighteenth birthday
The pace of life accelerated.
She returned his devotion fervently
then - somehow - pressured
and finally - carelessly
out of sight out of mind
conscience breaking the bond
‘friends always’ the casual promise
a buried chord now
a nudging regret to have hurt him so.
He had waited and waited
knowing love would prevail
but she did not return.
She married another man.
Only then he took a wife
inflicting upon her his duality
pacing the years of husband and father
hoarding his youthful dreams
when ‘someone loves you very much’
said this girl with the cherry mouth.
Cancer cancelled his heavy habit.
Before he died he returned the picture
that it might not be lost or destroyed.
His last words were a letter dictated to his son
delivered by email almost instantly:
“I know I will pass any moment.
I love you forever.”
And then he was dead and she was not.
She printed the letter and tucked it behind the picture
curt black font with her fine free manuscript
years - and years - and years apart -
in perceived time.
She lays the photograph in an attic box
out of sight out of mind:
wooing memories is a twisted risk.
Social structure can be cruel:
Tradition established by dominance
Nature harnessed for convenience
The ‘human ape’ disoriented distraught
Eighteen is flush with carnal drive
Prime for childbirth
Subordinated to artificial childhood
The brain and the body at war
With unsubstantiated science
Hawking from rival camps.
Cynthia Buell Thomas