First Love

An uncommon weakness for gardenia
and certain slow passages of music
repeated till the diamond needle dulled.

And the ruby waste of youth
and the tendency to be duped.

I'd bury
my face in the cotton prints she favored -
whiffs of fried fish, talcum, dust. Her rooms

were numerous, tobacco-stained, pocked
with discarded art, white island of a bed
in a page-curled sea of fact-checked books.

Afterwards, she'd read the cards, the dark
cupped dregs, my scarred yellow palm:

Like a bell
you will love in terror, striking what you love,
loving what you strike.

Claudia Burbank's poems have appeared on Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website and in such publications as Subtropics, Smartish Pace, 32 Poems, and Prairie Schooner. Her honors include the Maureen Egen Award from Poets & Writers, the Inkwell Prize (judged by Alice Quinn), and Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Jentel Foundation. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761