First Comes Love


poems by

Beth Ann Cagle

 ($10 if order from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-516-4, 80 pages, cover price: #14

Release Date: February 17, 2015


BCagle_Px_BkStoreBeth Ann Cagle, of Charlotte, NC, is author of the award-winning poetry chapbook The Fearless Tattoo (Shadow Press 2003), co-editor of Kakalak: Carolina Poetry & Art, and senior editor of moonShine review. Having served as a newspaper reporter and college educator, she has taught creative writing, literature, and various other English courses at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Cape Fear Community College. She earned, with honors, her BA in English and psychology (1993 and 1994 respectively) and her MA in English (2000) from UNC Charlotte. Beth’s poetry has won many awards and her poems, photographs, and memoir have appeared in numerous journals across the U.S., U.K., and Australia, including Slipstream, New York Quarterly, Tulane Review, Blue Collar Review, GSU Review, Maelstrom, Pine Songs, Plain Songs, Palo Alto Review, Monas Hieroglyphica, Sensations Magazine, The Main Street Rag, and Iodine Poetry Journal. Beth is working on two additional poetry books with the working titles A Family Memoir and Sylvia Plath in First Person.

First Comes Love is not just a collection of poems—it is a story, the story of a life, a powerful, moving, sometimes funny story of how the narrator grows and matures through a series of crises from the passionate but immature girl of Part I, through the near death experiences of Part II, into the mature, intelligent, independent, savvy woman of Part III. You can’t just read SOME of these poems. You have to read the whole book to get the full impact of this story. I loved reading it, both times!  –Anthony S. Abbott, author of The Angel Dialogues.

Poignantly simple, the title of Beth Ann Cagle’s poetry collection, First Comes Love, creates a paradoxical tone to the book as a whole. While we cannot help but hear the echo of children chanting a playground song, a youthful declaration of idealism, we yet anticipate what follows will be far from such chimerical conceptions. Thus, the inherent irony associated with these three simple words evolves through a myriad of trials and emotional upheaval, engaging us in a life of struggle—through marriage, illness, and doubt—but always one of hope, knowing the truth lies within knowing one’s self first. It is no accident the title poem is saved for last and is written to encompass the reader in this journey of sacrifice and sacrament.  —Anne Kaylor, moonShine review publisher and author of Floating a Full Boat

It’s no wonder that Beth Ann Cagle begins her book First Comes Love with a quote from Carol Christ, a well-known writer and educator on women’s spirituality and feminist theology. Ms. Cagle’s poetry explores the places where sensuality and spirituality meet, and where health crises, divorce, and other life challenges are leaping off points for insight and growth. As Christ states, “…the ability to face the darkness in (our) lives is an indication of strength, not weakness.” Or as Cagle says in “Fear of Falling,” “…I/ claim riches behind sight, find/ reason to take flight without fear.” Thank you, Ms. Cagle, for creating such a powerful collection where I can experience both the sting of recognition such as in the poem Coming Loose and also the laugh-out-loud humor of a poem like “Honeymoon Interrupted—Oak Island, NC.”  ~ Malaika King Albrecht,  Founding Editing of Redheaded Stepchild,  Author of What the Trapeze Artist Trusts, Spill, and Lessons in Forgetting

Honeymoon Interrupted—Oak Island, NC

Pesticide hangs thick in the oceanfront
condo we rented months ago—

so thick my asthma kicks in. I wheeze
all the way to the cheapest inn in town.

The Captain’s Cove looks like a warehouse
on the outside, rooms in rows. Crowded inside.

Bed a foot from the wall. And the shower stall
isn’t built for sex, even if I hadn’t been wheezing.

Next morning, the real estate lady says,
“Every condo on the island’s been sprayed.”

We rent a house real cheap on the bay. For Sale
sign in the yard. First floor under heavy renovations.

Today, the hammering drives us to the Family Dollar.
Deprived of our honeymoon rights,

you say you’re frisky—I’ll call it depraved.
On the toy isle, we find handcuffs.

In the women’s department, scarves
when you can’t find rope.

And I have brought my fishnets with red stilettos—
knowing your hosiery and shoe fetish.

From the bedroom, we hear knocking
at the front door, decide to ignore it—

being mostly naked and all,
not to mention me half tied up.

The second knock goes unheeded. Suddenly, keys
jangle in the lock as the front door squeaks open.

Compromised, I dangle halfway off the bed;
you lunge for jeans as we hear the real estate lady
say, “And this is the living room.”

Blooming Gladiolas

Grandma Sims was seventy-six when they
laid her youngest daughter’s body out
in a funeral home’s furniture-less room
surrounded by crosses of flaming gladiolas.
She said, “A mother should never live
to see her children die.”

When this third daughter died of a stroke,
Grandma laid her own body out—
on the living room’s yellow checkered couch
in a white slip to match her hair—
and her brain bloomed into a gladiola
red as the moon slipping away from earth.

The next spring, they lay my body out
on a gurney under lights that multiply
into dozens of brilliant gladiolas as
my eyes pull sideways from the pressure
of blood straining against my brain; inaugural
elegies pierce the limp petal of my tongue.

My legs hang flaccid after six days flat
on a rolling bed in neuro-intensive care.
A catheter courses the veins past my eardrum,
and I learn the lucid morphine lie:
my aching brain cries out around my eyes
long after my tongue sponges silence.

My mother, second daughter, cries above my bed
for days, rubbing her trembling hands and praying.
Nearing death, blood spills from my vulva—
the final vaginal bloom—and mother carefully
washes the petals from my body’s cavity
as the catheter bathes clots from my brain.

After nine days, I rise up and walk
on tender stalks descending an undulating
hallway to a window where I watch
a pallid moon slip back into waiting
earth. I steady myself against the pane;
the scent of gladiolas pours from my room.

Marriage Counseling After Twenty Years

We hesitate weightless
on the wait-list of danger.

What is it that falls on us,
on our hearts, to decipher,

pulls us in at the ankles, into
the smoke-filled trees of argument,

gives us too much pause, loping in
from the fog of forgetting?

What is it, in the split second
the counselor speaks, that calls me

to twist my loose wedding band,
like habit, back to the foreground?

Tension layers us with grave dirt,
the granite tableau already engraved.

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