First Love, Mother Love by Jonathan Minton


First Love (Friday the 13th, Part 1)

Across the lake, the teenagers scurry from their small, dry cabins.
When their bodies ripple the water, my hands instinctively clutch
at the rotten logs, the mossy stones gathered around me.
I imagine their bright teeth, their long legs and hair. When they turn
to each other and cry out, I breathe lungful’s of bitter mud. I sink
to the bottom of their desires, and sit like a warped and bloated toad.
At night, they slip between campfire and lamplight

into the bruised fingers of their night. When I am old enough,
I will break this darkness in half. I will step into it.
They will learn of the body’s truth, of its softer places.
They will feel this hurt. My mother says the world will always cut.
This is love, she says. You can hide behind it forever.


Mother Love (Friday the 13th, Part 2)


Yesterday, I could not think of anything
but you, but nothing is worth thinking unless
you can make it come true. When you
died, it was as if the moon, no, it was as if
the sun hung in the trees like a wounded
animal. Everything was bloody and broken
against its bones. You came stumbling
back, your sweater smelled of rain.
You were bathed in rags of shadow and smoke.
You called out to me. There were other voices
inside your voice, then a stranger stepped
into your skin. Affection is a reward too remote
from its action, a cruel star no one should regard,
but I will never look away. The real world
can flicker and die. There is no other truth.
They will hear me speak only
your name, if I say anything at all.

*Note: Some of the phrasing is from Robert Creeley’s “For Love.” 



Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is a Professor of English at Glenville State College. He is the author of Technical Notes for Bird Government (Telemetry Press, 2018), In Gesture (Dyad Press, 2009), and Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press, 1999). He is the editor of the journal Word For/Word (

Published 5/6/21