The Grave of Edna St. Vincent Millay

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—
her grave.

I asked why she hadn’t read
her famous First Fig
or my favorite Spring.

She just smiled,
kissed my cheek
and faded.

Leaving me
to remember my way
back to living.

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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20 Responses to The Grave of Edna St. Vincent Millay

  1. luvgoodcarp says:

    Edna St. Vincent Millay is incredible. You are not the only one with a crush on her.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. ivor20 says:

    You sneaky devil you … I think Vincent would have enjoyed your enchanting poem …

    Liked by 3 people

  3. She was indeed a wicked woman. And just my type.

    I read her life story and found it not all that interesting, but now that I think of it, I remember that her whole family was sort of dependent on her talent. She had a mother and sisters. Unfortunately when someone dies of alcoholism it tends to leave a sour taste in the public mouth. They are seen as excessively self-absorbed and all sorts of other nasty things. So I don’t know if the book did her justice.

    I’m glad you carry the torch.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I love your poem and learning about Ms. Millay, Vincent if you are nasty! Well done, my friend! 💖😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of my first posts on my blog back in 2016 was about Edna. I had just discovered her at that time. I adore her poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. berniebell1955 says:

    Yay! Well done you Bart, on many counts. How many times have it ranted that poem? Getting a bit old for the true burning now – but – what the hell!

    And…going there….. and – if you took the pic of her grave, trespassing – I’m all for that kind of trespass – tho’ – we have ‘right to roam’ here in Scotland and possibly the penalties for disobeying are harsher in America?

    And your poem – a corker – yes – there she is – catch her if you can. That’s one for sharing, too.

    You’ve made my day.

    Have you made the acquaintance of Dorothy Parker? https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/04/24/i-discover-dorothy-parker/

    Liked by 1 person

    • JeanMarie says:

      Yes indeed. Did Mr. Barker trespass to take those pictures? I was wondering that myself. I certainly hope so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bernie! Alas, there’s no “right to roam” here in the States.

      And I am slightly familiar with Dorthy Parker. I know she’s written at least a few poems but I’d always thought of her as more of a “wit” than a “poet”. I’ll give her work some more attention. Thanks!

      Like

  7. JeanMarie says:

    You talk about her a lot but not until tonight have I have spent much time with her poetry. What have I been doing all my life?! I loved First Fig. Well, of course, that is what I do. She won the Robert Frost medal in 1943 so your dead poets trip is tying together quite nicely.

    I like the poem you wrote. It’s kind of hot. The two ending stanzas are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, JM! I’m happy to have introduced you two.

      Like

      • berniebell1955 says:

        And I’m pleased to have introduced you to the poetry of DP – you have some treats in store.

        Strangely enough – there’s one perfect rose in your picture of ‘Vincent’s’ grave – you’ll see what I mean when you read ‘One Perfect Rose’.

        Oh – what the hell…..

        “A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
        All tenderly his messenger he chose;
        Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
        One perfect rose.

        I knew the language of the floweret;
        “My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
        Love long has taken for his amulet
        One perfect rose.

        Why is it no one ever sent me yet
        One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
        Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
        One perfect rose.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lovely and funny. Thanks!

        Like

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