I’ve had a crush on Edna St. Vincent Millay for years. Apparently she gave quite the poetry reading with her musical voice and stunning good looks. She was also a free-thinker, feminist, liberal with her affection to the point of scandal and preferred to be called Vincent.
What a shame that she died fourteen years before I was born.
She wrote the classic “My candle burns at both ends…” whose title First Fig has been all but forgotten. Her Second Fig is similarly aphoristic but when compared to the First, it comes correctly Second.
All I knew about her grave as I drove to Steepletop, her former home in upstate New York, was that she was buried somewhere on the grounds. I had read that it had been a museum dedicated to her but that the museum had closed some time ago. I had hoped that I’d be able to walk around outside and that her grave was just in the backyard or somewhere nearby.
But when I arrived, I discovered that the whole property was closed to the public. There was no legal way to visit her grave so the best I could do was write a poem.
Labyrinth for Vincent
“Ignore the No Trespassing sign,”
she beckoned from the other side.
“Come with me through the forest.
I’ll read my poetry as we travel
barefoot on the mossy path.”
Side-by-side we walked,
the sun enflamed her hair,
her voice like bird song
on the wind tickling the leaves.
And at the center—
gray and lichened
as a standing stone
felled by time—
I asked why she hadn’t read
her famous First Fig
or my favorite Spring.
She just smiled,
kissed my cheek
to remember my way
back to living.