No Se Recuerdo

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Arnold Genthe photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

“I only know that summer sang in me
a little while, that in me sings no more.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay
(“‘What lips my lips have kissed,
and where, and why'”)

I can find no poem opening line
sad or romantic enough
for a supermarket-bakery cake
inscribed “Happy Birthday Edna,”
blue icing weeping its letters
down the white landscape,
snow crusted over, Sell-By date
long past, preserved in 
the clear plastic casket
exhumed from the Food Bank
cardboard box of assorted salvage,
Surprise! for the City Light Community
Ministries volunteer sorting out
still-edible pastries for the Homeless,
the Displaced, none named Edna,
none expecting a happy birthday.

Edna St. Vincent Millay in her living quarters, her “Withdrawing Room.” (Photo courtesy of Holly Peppe, Executor for The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society at Steepletop, Austerlitz, N.Y.) Associated Press

Edna, I imagine you the poet
Edna St. Vincent Millay.
I want to believe you merry,
your birthday candles blazing
at both ends, you just home
from going back and forth all night
on the dream ferry, rising with the sun,
your constant lover still abed,
your one faithful dream, you at the table,
its apple and pear and composition
notebook, your fingers, too small
for a concert pianist, perfect for teasing
that word from your fountain pen–
Memory, presently available, a day or two,
before the summer birds have flown,
ghosts tapping on the window.

Snapshot of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Poetry Foundation (poetry Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images.

Poems Echoed:

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Recuerdo”; “‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!'”; “‘I think I should have loved you presently'”; “‘What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why.'” The Selected Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, edited by Nancy Milford, introduction by Olivia Gatwood, Modern Library Torchbearers, September 10, 2002, pp. 48, 70, 151, 154.