Lips

Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

     Would that I had truly understood this poem when I first read it so many years ago. Then might I have known how fleeting love can be and how truly precious it is. But I find myself alone these days, upon a precipice from which I may jump perhaps to fly, perhaps to die.

     A third engagement planned before the second even occurred. A joyful evening each time. Loathe have I been to see the night ended. I have been a man sun-baked in the desert, knowing he thirsted but not the extent of that thirst till a cup was proffered and a sip was had. Oh that I might never have drunk that meager bit but lived on without the knowledge of my appetite.

     Yet I would not sacrifice that which I have had. But where this appetite could lead frightens me. Shall it entangle and trip me? And even if it could be mastered, would there not be dangers just as grave upon the path which it would guide me down?

     Ah, but one canst not know the adventure without treading that path.

     We have parted friends. We have parted with a kiss to the temple. When we part again, how shall it be done?

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