Thursday, August 02, 2007

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

I'm currently reading Daniel Mark Epstein's biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I had, at one point, wanted to read Nancy Milford's Savage Beauty...and then I met Milford. I know that plenty of writers are jerks, and you shouldn't let that effect your reading, but it just really put me off the book. I met her in a totally non-book-related environment where she told me that she'd been a finalist for the Pulitzer prize, in rather snobby tones. So I asked her what she'd written and she said that her most recent book was a biography of Millay called Savage Beauty. "Oh, I've read about that," I exclaimed--and in fact I had read about it and had recently put it on my Amazon wishlist. Her reply was to say, in a thoroughly cutting way, "Well maybe someday you'll actually read it." At which point I thought, well not now I won't. Bitch. Hey, I've never claimed to be anything but petty. So that's how I came to be reading Epstein's biography. Which is very good so far, although I'm not terribly far into it.

So, anyway, here are a couple of Millay poems:


Love, if I weep it will not matter,
..And if you laugh I shall not care;
Foolish am I to think about it,
..But it is good to feel you there.

Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking, --
..White and awful the moonlight reached
Over the floor, and somewhere, somewhere,
..There was a shutter loose, -- it screeched!

Swung in the wind, -- and no wind blowing! --
..I was afraid, and turned to you,
Put out my hand to you for comfort, --
..And you were gone! Cold, cold as dew,

Under my hand the moonlight lay!
..Love, if you laugh I shall not care,
But if I weep it will not matter, --
..Ah, it is good to feel you there!


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.

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