Monday, October 25, 2010

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I think she had her own Superman:
"I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year."

Have you ever watched a man play Keno?

Have you ever watched a man play Keno?
You aren't going to find a rocket scientist
waiting for the lottery ball to fall
they are off guiding rockets
You aren't going to find a man of industry
or a great man of thought pushing the button
over and over again
hoping for a little jingle of music
and some coins to fall loose
Men of industry are in a meeting
playing golf
planning his next big move

I saw a man playing Keno
his face like a dead limb on a tree
falling to the side a little
waiting for a strong wind of something
to push him free
waiting for the jingle of coins

He was playing hoping to win it big
to take his wife to Kansas City, the land of
well nothing, it's Kansas City
Famous people lived there
Walter Cronkite, Hemingway,
the Great Jazz Saxophonist; Charlie Parker
but they all left and Hemingway told people
he was from Oak Park

He must really love this woman I thought to plan the big
trip to Kansas City, the land of whatever it was
the land of
but he shook his head slowly like a man married
to someone who was once charming and even interesting
and now was a robot of herself
angry with the world
her friends avoiding her calls
unless they need something
a ride to this place
or a few dollars for dinner
You see they don't really come around
they don't have to listen to what he listens to
night after night
and when a co-worker asks how she is
he just nods, just fine
knowing she's busy hating something hating and hating and hating
and his only respite? the little bouncing balls of Keno
the mindless game of lottery where he has no control
no power
no big meeting he's missing
just life spinning off another 20 years of nothing
glad his unborn children aren't watching this
life of his the dead limb of life
hang just a little closer to the ground
hoping the air conditioning works when he gets home
and maybe she's asleep on the sofa
dreaming of Kansas City


Millay wrote of nothing ordinary. She was the first female poet that caught my attention back in high school, Ms. Kerns English class. Kerns was very quiet, wore her hair in long braids rolled up on the side of her head and she knew poetry. She was serious about poetry. In the season when everyone was reciting the Raven, she loved Millay and so do I. Millay was the first woman to ever receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. If you are looking for a good fall read Nancy Millford's; Savage Beauty charts her life in a mysterious fashion.

Floyd Dell wrote of her "a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine." She wrote of love you see, not the ordinary love of some shack worker an his rabid wife but of the out of the ordinary love and broken hearts and high expectations.

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.


This is a favorite

OH, THINK not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love's self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now:
After the feet of beauty fly my own.
Were you not still my hunger's rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you–think not but I would!–
And seek another as I sought you first.
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I most am true.

and of course..the first poem of Millay's I heard in Mrs. Kern's English class:

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that's permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.

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