First Love

It’s the first love I resent so much I can’t look back,

can’t muster enough for even a retrospective love poem —

the glare of that reflection is blinding, still, and perhaps for the best.

She so young and hopeful and revoltingly naive.

He so wrongly fit one wonders why no one said anything those first long years,

put a stop to the nonsense before

that first virginal kiss, that awkward stumble into love,

that goddamn Brides magazine under the mattress after the glittering rooftop proposal.

What were any of us thinking?

It was no more a match made in heaven than my parents

who would suffer like good Catholics for only a few more years themselves.

Thank god he went to war, ate a dog, voted for George Bush —

I might no longer recognize myself.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. Image: Lovers by House, Jeffrey Smart

Support Local! Shop Local!

You can always buy my books from the Three Chairs Publishing ETSY shop, but did you know that my books — LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, FLOSSING, and Waiting Out the Storm — are also available at the following locally-owned retailers? Check them out during Small Business Saturday this weekend. Support Local! Shop Local!

(Above, books on display at the Martha Link Walsh Gallery in Branford, CT)

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Clinton Art Gallery
Poetry Place
20 E Main St
Clinton, CT 06413

Florence Griswold Museum
96 Lyme Street
Old Lyme, CT 06371

The Shop at Guilford Art Center
411 Church Street
Guilford, CT 06437

Martha Link Walsh Gallery
188 North Main Street
Branford, CT 06405

Rock Garden
17 South Main Street
Branford, CT 06405

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The Brewster Book Store
2648 Main Street
Brewster, MA 02631

Titcomb’s Bookshop
432 MA-6A
East Sandwich, MA 02537


by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850 – October 30, 1919) was a popular poet and author at the turn of the century. Her works include “Poems of Passion” and “Solitude,” which contains the lines “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.” Her autobiography, The Worlds and I, was published in 1918, a year before her death. Her and her husband lived in Granite Bay in the Short Beach section of Branford, Connecticut. The two homes they built, along with several cottages, became known as Bungalow Court, and they would hold gatherings there of literary and artistic friends. (Source: Uncover Branford) IMAGE: November Morning by Willard Metcalf.

if I call it the Zombie Apocalypse, neither of us are as scared as we should be

For My Nephew Max

At dawn, I scoop soft flesh from native squash
separate the slippery seeds in a shallow dish,
add olive oil, salt, pepper……….wonder:
should I dry them, save them, hide them
instead in a dark corner in the cellar store?

Before too much time, I should teach you,
teach you these things you’ll need to know,
like where the wild asparagus grow,
and how to shuck oysters……….if they remain

Scientists say now the seals might die.
Will oysters follow suit? The sweet brine of clams the same?
Do I even know if seeds will store and for how long
before they……….and we……….amount to ash?

Once, an acorn took root in the cellar,
stretched its albino shoot as high as it could reach
then gave up the ghost with a long heavy sigh
that haunted the house for days.

Acorns, I am told, are edible……….with work
But I pray that won’t be you, your sweet small self
stretched reaching-thin towards the sun
……….or the rain……….or the last nut high on a branch.

Remind me to tell you about nuts,
and roots and berries, spring shoots,
and mushrooms — both kinds, just in case.


Poem ©2019, Jen Payne. For similar reflections, please purchase a copy of my new book WAITING OUT THE STORM. Click here for details.

It’s an Indie Blog Hop!

WAITING OUT THE STORM featured on Indie Blog Hop today! Check it out!

PopTheButterfly Reads

Poems on death, grief, and gratitPoems on death, grief, and gratitude written from the shoreline of Connecticut and the wide and windswept beaches of Cape Cod.

Reflecting on the sudden loss of a close friend, author Jen Payne looks to the solace of nature. On the opening pages, she allows the poet Rilke to remind the reader “Through the empty branches the sky remains. It is what you have. Be earth now, and evensong. Be the ground lying under that sky.” WaitingOut the Storm is an intimate look at life transitions and how we cope with the unexpected.

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Jen Payne has published four books: LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014), Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind (2017), FLOSSSING (2019), and Waitingout the Storm (2019). Installations of her poetry were featured in exhibitions at the Arts Council of…

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