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Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact poem-a-day@poets.org.

Millay’s Hair

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 27, 2017.
About this Poem 

“Some of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s literary and personal archives are held in the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. Millay’s sister Norma saved, as the poem says, everything—not simply manuscripts and notebooks, but also expired dog tags and grocery lists, a raft of Millay’s life detritus, simultaneously mundane, compelling, and deeply moving.”
—Ann Townsend

Millay’s Hair

New York Public Library, Edna St. Vincent Millay archives

Because Norma saved even the grocery lists,
              it was no surprise to find a lock of hair

                            coiled and glued loosely into the scrapbook,
crimped and rusty, more weird

and alive than any calling card or photograph,
              letter, erotic or otherwise, sweeter

                            than the candy kisses fixed upon the page.
I shouldn’t have touched it, but in those days

I was always hungry. Despite the rare books
              librarian lurking, I set my thumb against it.

                            Weightless, dusty, it warmed at my touch.
By 1949, all the grocery lists affirmed

the same fixations: Liverwurst, Olives, Cookies, Scotch. 
              Liverwurst, Olives, Cookies, Scotch, penciled

                            on squares of insipid paper. By 1950,
unsteady on her feet; by year’s end, dead at the foot

of the stairs. As I placed the book of relics
              back into its archival box, a single

                            copper wire fell from the page,
bright tendril on the table. I lifted it,

casket of DNA, protein, lipids, and still Titian red.
              Really, was I wrong to swallow it?  
 

Copyright © 2017 by Ann Townsend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Ann Townsend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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August 09, 2016 Hoard Rae Armantrout
May 24, 2017 The Runaround Rae Armantrout
April 04, 2011 Exact Rae Armantrout
May 26, 2014 Lie Rae Armantrout
September 16, 2014 Dämmerung Simon Armitage
March 27, 2011 The Buried Life Matthew Arnold
February 21, 2012 Poem Cynthia Arrieu-King
October 16, 2015 Ode to an Encyclopedia James Arthur
July 17, 2013 Goodnight Moon James Arthur

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