The Butler Pennsylvania Poems

    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 escorting 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 that you were loved by me
and 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.

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