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

charmed charming

ardently sincere

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

wholly committed

to cherish honour and support her

until he died

and that eighteenth birthday

love overwhelming.


The pace of life accelerated.

She returned his devotion fervently

at first

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

◄ november robin

Winter Walk ►


Profile image

Andy N

Tue 21st Dec 2010 08:22

lovely stuff, cynthia.. possibly a bit long for me, but it is a story within a poem so fair enough... xx

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Mon 20th Dec 2010 17:09

I do thank you all for your input. John, I must have been revising as you were commenting (have no idea how that works; do you see me in action?) If anyone cares to re-look, I have made several changes, because I knew the poem hadn't 'settled', was way too prosy in the rough. I know better. I will henceforth exercise the discipline needed for longer themes. Once again, super opinions much respected.

Profile image

John Aikman

Mon 20th Dec 2010 16:42

It's a fabulous story although I think it could be edited strongly and gain a bit on the poetry front. Mind you, I say that about anything longer than a sonnet :-)

I think you could edit out clunky bits like 'years of age' (what else would they be?)'one night' (unnecessary)'another man' (we didn't think she'd married him and the next line confirms that) 'he never recovered from losing her' (well, that's partly what the poem is about so it doesn't need spelling out) and I think some stuff, like terminal cancer could be alluded to...unless it was a flat 'matter of fact' vibe that you were going for.

Hope you don't mind my does contain some lovely lines and...'She knows wooing memories is a twisted risk.' is worthy of a poem of its own.Thank you.Jx

Profile image

Ray Miller

Mon 20th Dec 2010 15:40

I enjoyed the tale. For me, there isn't enough of what we'd call poetic, I suppose. This is lovely:
with a sophomorphic smile lips half parted.
But I feel there's too much explaining going on e.g. most of the 4th verse.

Profile image

Dave Bradley

Sun 19th Dec 2010 23:29

Enjoyed this, Cynthia. The final stanza is interesting. It's a change of pace from a story with fascinating missing bits & 'what ifs' to an almost didactic approach. Poetically it doesn't seem to work very well but what is said there feels appropriate and interesting. It leaves the reader with the question - what are we to make of this institution called marriage?

Profile image

Greg Freeman

Sun 19th Dec 2010 22:05

This is a poignant tale, Cynthia. I do agree that the last stanza is unnecessary and less poetic than the rest. You might also consider some sanding down to make lines like "she knows wooing memories is a twisted risk" stand out even more. One thing that struck me ... the idea that he could get a message to her from his deathbed almost instantly. In that way she was accessible to him at the last. As we are all to each other, thanks to the wonders of technology.

Profile image


Sun 19th Dec 2010 17:26

Hi Cynthia - This does resonate as a tragic tale of what if love and possibly a nostalgic memory of a first time sexual experience. It is about memories of the kind which take on a dimension of their own because what might have been is just fleetingly out of our grasp and as such should always remain part of the inner sanctum of the heart - I enjoyed reading this with its haunting take on a look back life - and as whistfully stated in your last stanza 'social structures can be (and still are very) cruel' well done

Profile image


Sun 19th Dec 2010 17:12

And you accuse me of being romantic, Cynthia! I could never have written anything like this - cos I could never believe in a love enduring like that. For me, true love has to have some substance for it to endure. What this couple had was a fanciful love - never really put to the test - a romantic idea maybe but hardly real.

I did find the last verse a bit out of place, I must admit. I would need to hear more poetry substantiating what is in it, to understand it fully.
I like your narrative poetry though - it is always an interesting read. x

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Sun 19th Dec 2010 16:41

A new one. If it resonates with anyone I would be interested in a comment, to see if I'm getting anywhere, or just stagnating. The last verse is a kind of epilogue, an imposed 'relevant' commentary about societies, maybe out of place, not sure.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message