Monday, October 19, 2015
Poetic Memoriam To Two Sisters: Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Lounella Millay Ellis
Christal Cooper – Poem 570 Words
* Poem copyright by Christal Rice Cooper
** “Monologues of the Ladies of Steepletop” previously published in gone sane
Monologues of the Ladies of Steepletop
“I will control myself, or go inside.
I will not flaw perfection with my grief.
Handsome, this day: no matter who has died.”
-the last lines written by Edna St. Vincent Millay
February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950
Norma Lounella Millay Ellis
December 26, 1893 – May 14, 1986
Steepletop, that place of naked wildflowers
skinny spines with pink heads
She said the steepletops would live
until the brutal winter came
to break their green necks.
Steepletop was dead and abandoned,
except for the steepletops growing
in the hills and meadows.
Eugen and I worked like Trojans-at-war on that place.
Steepletop had its own mahogany bar
right next to the sapphire pool
where we drank cold scotches
and smoked Egyptian cigarettes.
Vincent held her scotch in her right hand
and look at the painting
of a naked woman with two white birds,
one floating in the air, the other perched on her hand.
Now the narrow wooden staircase
becomes a poem
each step a sound, a syllable, a word.
Her red hair never changed. Her face
was freckled one day, the next clear.
She had that much control.
But her words were wild
pen marks flashing across the page.
Here is this chair
next to the fireplace.
The fire looks glassy orange.
I turn on the small lamp next to me
and read Rolphe Humphries’s translation of the Aeneid.
Now is the time to write. With a pencil.
She always wrote in pen.
If she wrote in pencil she’d need
He’d been dead for one year, one month, twenty days
I behead the pencil,
experiencing pleasure as the blade
slices parts of the head away,
to reveal delicious black blood
that bleeds on to the page-
each character calm, calculating.
She wasn’t Catholic.
Pills were her beads to holiness.
One could never get too holy.
I am in total control.
My lines are very neat.
It is time. I lay the pencil down.
Now I am the baritone singer
living on Charlotte Street with my sisters,
where Kathleen will always be alive.
I must go upstairs to see them.
I don’t know why she took so many.
Maybe she had a headache – hellish, lasting for months,,
blinding her to everything but tiny black spots.
Sometimes her only relief
was to sit on the porch, swinging into
the black of winter.
I am dancing, the stairs my stage.
The stairs are now my bed, and I am making love,
to all the men and women I’ve made love to before.
Now I am an actress as in lifetimes ago.
Ladies and Gentlemen, here is my bedroom:
the first room on the right at the top of the stairs.
I have only two photographs –one of Norma and Kathleen
hugging each other, beckoning me to the space
Then there is Eugen, holding a flaming sword.
She hated the dark but she could walk in it.
She loved the fire blazing, but she relished the cold. She
I remember she and Eugen floating in the icy Atlantic.
I’m burning- I need another cold scotch,
the Atlantic right here with me
where it is blue cold;
but all I see is narrow wooden steps.
Another cold scotch,
another rosary bead,
and the sea comes.
The turquoise waves blanketing the steps
where the steepletops can live
away from the savage ice
that cracks them into tiny icy fragments.
I dive, I dance, and finally I am
They said she broke her neck.
Oh, beautiful animal! Oh, sister!
PHOTO DESCRIPTION AND COPYRIGHT INFO
Edna St. Vincent Millay in Mamaroneck, New York, 1914. Attributed to Arnold Gentlhe. Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Steeplebush in Wild Garden’s exhibit by the Nature Center in Acadia National Park, Maine. Attributed to Steven G Johnson. Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported.
Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eugen Boissevain in 1923. Public Domain.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, second from the left, at the bar drinking with friends. Public Domain.
Edna St. Vincent Millay. Public Domain.
Edna St. Vincent Millay in chair. Public Domain.
Jacket cover of Rolfe Humphries’ translation of the Aeneid.
Edna St. Vincent Millay writing. Public Domain.
Edna St. Vincent Millay on the porch. Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Edna, Norma, and Kathleen in 1930. Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Atlantic Ocean view from the west coast of Portugal. Image taken in April 0f 2009. Attributed to Alvesgaspar. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
Other Poems Written By Chris Rice Cooper