Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ms. st. vee and me
























Edna's House



Out back, Edna
hangs pillowcases,
fresh as a line of sonnets.

Her rogue image, 
candid in a nightie and tramp-coat,
displays robust charm,
to match her savage beauty. 

We chat over wet laundry 
― 
I trust her with my tough secrets, 
my edged tools.

It's easy; like having another drink, 
when you know you’ve had enough.

She tosses words like clothespins,
exhales slow, stamps a cigarette
in the grass, with a twist
of her Pulitzer shoe.

“Your heart is true”, she winks.
“You may pass”.



Tess Kincaid
February, 2010



Whenever I pass this little green house, I like to imagine my muse, Edna St. Vincent Millay, living here. It's far from Steepletop, but I see her, soft in her easy chair, scribbling sonnets late at night, before the fire.

130 comments:

  1. That's fabulously fun Tess. Have you ever seen the actual inhabitant?

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  2. No, Jeanette, I haven't. That's why I think it's so easy to envision Millay there.

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  3. This is wonderful! So wonderful, in fact, I can just nod in mute enjoyment while I gather the layers to me.

    Love the little house!

    I have linked you today.

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  4. I love the last two lines. As always a pleasure when you read it aloud.

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  5. I love this..."tossing words like clothespins", God that's beautiful.

    I can even smell that cigarette :)

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  6. I can't even fathom Ms. Millay granting me an audience, I swoon at the thought ...... this is such a treat, Tess!

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  7. Fresh as a line of sonnets....she tosses words, like clothespins in the basket.

    Oh how I love the way that write Tess.

    Felicity x
    www.giftsofserendipity.com

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  8. A welcoming home and an inviting poem, Tess. Have you ever visited Steepleton? Mary Oliver did and ended up living there for several years. This is how she described it:

    When I was still in high school, in 1953, I wrote to Norma Millay, the poet’s sister, asking if I might visit the poet’s home, where Norma Millay was then living. The answer was yes. So, sometimes, the emboldened young fly into their lives. I lived there, off and on, for a good number of years. I don’t know if spirits always haunt their earthly homes, but I know that sometimes they do. Her presence was everywhere.

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  9. Lorenzo, I've never visited Steepletop, but it is high on my bucket list. I'm sure her presence is still very much there. I've been obsessed with Millay since reading Nancy Milford's "Savage Beauty" when it first came out.

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  10. I just know that Edna would say those words to you. An A+ for this one...you certainly do pass, in all respects.

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  11. This is so wonderful, the photo, the poem and the fantasy - absolute perfection and does just what poems should do - takes us on a flight of fancy straight into the heart of a dream! Loved it.

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  12. Beautiful and I love to hear you reading it.

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  13. i agree on the tossing words like clothespins line...that who stanza is tight...it is a cool house as well...

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  14. hangs pillowcases to dry, fresh
    as a line of sonnets ...

    I like those words, too. Just wonderful

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  15. I love a vintage smoke in a piece...

    Pulitzer shoe...sweet.

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  16. Ah, I love this! I love that you read it to us! It is very true that some people have the ability to gain conversation from you like this. I posted my first Magpie Tale! This is such a great idea! So glad that I checked you out and joined in the fun! :o)

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  17. Wow! Love the poem and hearing it read to me was delightful! What fun...

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  18. Tess - you never cease to leave me in awe. The whole poem reads like a much longer story and the ending is flawless. I can imagine the whole thing using all my senses. Will the house photo be the next Magpie? I hope so because it is really an inspiring photo. Kristen

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  19. I've been enjoying your readings so much, Tess! What a delightful interaction with Edna!

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  20. Wow, Tess.
    You gave me chills.
    Just beautiful.
    And I haven't even heard the audio yet.

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  21. Tess this looks just like my little library in my home town. Wonderful lines and your reading it is like hearing Edna read it.
    QMM

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  22. A great photo and a beautiful poem!
    I REALLY liked it...

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  23. Love the house & the photo. Your blog is looking stunning these days ...

    love from the snowy lands xo les Gang

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  24. A charming green house. An equally charming verse. I'd love to dream about both tonight!

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  25. What a great little house. I'd love to know who really does live there. Excellent poem--Edna must be smiling down and flattered.

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  26. Tess -- Perhaps there are good reasons that you are taken with the green house and Millay living there.It appears that they were both born on the same timeline.

    Millay was raised poor and was born in the latter part of the 19th century just as the green house type was becoming widely popular as a type of folk architecture. It was a house for people of modest means. Your green house is a "camel back" shotgun house. This type of house is one of my favorites and is associated with southern houses.The "camel back" is the second addition on the back of the house. Love the house and thanks for the very interesting post. -- barbara

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  27. I can envision her there too. You know I love Vincent too

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  28. Oh, beautifully done. 3 elements woven so well, and I rather covet the green house.

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  29. Nicely done Tess. And I love your imagination which is what I've been posting about for the past two weeks,albeit not as eloquently as you my sweet.

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  30. Liked the story, identifying with "Why do I trust her with my tough secrets, my edged tools?". Were you buying her trust? I too would trust a savagely beautiful woman who buys mail order sandals!

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  31. What an interesting encounter, during a mundane task.

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  32. You've inspired me to read the poet. Thanks.

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  33. Barbara, fascinating stuff about this being a camel back shotgun style house, especially since it was in the same time frame as Millay. I know I'm psychic, but when little things like this happen, it still surprises me.

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  34. A charming house and fantasy to match!

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  35. Love your imagination, especially when it produces such lovely poetry.

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  36. Edna would be proud of this effort. I hope that you are as well.

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  37. Wonderful -- and I think it's her birthday today!

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  38. Wonderful words and a very nice thought. I’d place her there too.

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  39. Your reading brings everything you write to a higher level of excellence
    --though some pieces, such as "ms. st. vee and me"--were pushing against the ceiling before I hear your kindest of voicing.

    Wunderbar! Peace!

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  40. Lovely house. When I first saw your picture I thought it was a chapel/church.

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  41. Yes, it would be scary to confront (even casually, in "nightie and tramp-coat") one's muse, especially one who could toss words like clothespins.

    Oh, but you definitely pass (don't need me to tell you)! Thank you for this.

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  42. "She tosses words, like clothespins
    in the basket" -- your words draw me there, create a scene I can see. Love this!

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  43. I especially loved your description here, showing her larger than life status in a way though she's getting her laundry:


    She tosses words, like clothespins
    in the basket, exhales slow, stamps
    a cigarette in the grass with a twist
    of her Pulitzer shoe.

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  44. Some great lines in this, and I loved the ending.

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  45. Hey Willow, I often see my muse floating near the ceiling, or walking along with me in times I most need her! This was wonderful.. a nice house too..

    PS: One of your old Magpie photographs, the one for Mag40, the one of the Lord Anjaneya and beads.. I wanted to use that for a poem.. Saw a disclaimer there, so thought I'll get ur permission for it first.. is it OK? I'll give u the credits of course, in a format u tell :)

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  46. Wonderful writing, I loved the vivid imagery and 'fresh as a line of sonnets, her rogue image candid in a nightie and tramp-coat.'

    I enjoyed every word. :-)

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  47. I dream that one day I'll be referred to as 'of Savage Beauty'. Those 2 words are exquisite.
    Millie x

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  48. Leo, yes, please feel free to use the photo, and thanks for giving me credit!

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  49. I love tiny houses ... many writers have built and occupied them apart from their main spaces ... Here, as the spirit-house of a guiding muse, in winter (where the dead reside), it's the origin and destination of the walk, as well as the poem... Millay's presence in the poem is a marvel (those last 2 lines of the first sonnets are gold), and her blessing -- by way of your totem abandonment to the word -- is wonderful. I'm always interested to read how women relate to their muses, the outer artist / inner woman stereotype is purely linguistic ... Here you match steel for steel, as if to say that the female poet has a sort of warrior's affinity to the a masculine-inflected inner woman. Dunno if that's what you meant, but I read it there.

    Couple of suggestions: 1) the title is too obvious. Maybe "Edna's House" with the first line changed to "Out back, my muse St.Millay" and 2) the ending is a bit too pat. There's something cloaked about the creator/muse relationship, a darkness which only the creator fully understands. You let us in on the secret a little too much. Still, the poem burns.

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  50. "she tosses words like clothes pins in the basket" love it. The house is adorable.

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  51. That's a wonderful story about Mary Oliver. I had no idea she lived at Steepletop for awhile. YOu should apply to the colony. Once your chapbook is published! You get to stay a whole month at no cost and are served meals. Norma was alive one time when I stayed at the colony.

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  52. You picked the right muse...I believe every word of this lovely poem!

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  53. I would love to talk with Sandburg-
    Nice work! grand interpretation. Thanks.

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  54. Thanks, blue, I like your suggestions!

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  55. Fabulous 'words tossed in the basket like clothespins'...

    Amazing piece... felt like I had strolled past, glancing in on your visit.

    Gotta love those old houses.

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  56. What a beautiful tribute to your muse!
    Of all your works that I have read, this perhaps is one of my favorites.
    I wish there was an option to hear you read it. I do so love to sit and listen to you read your work, and have considered adding the feature to my own page!

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  57. Oh sure, now that I comment the listen bar is back. :p

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  58. What a vibrant, warm house and poem in the midst of winter cold.

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  59. delightful!

    and you've inspired me to visit steepletop at some time....it is open for tours starting in may.

    i remember walking by one of edna's nyc flats in the village, and later this month maybe i'll walk by it again and snap a shot of the plaque and house for you.... as i remember it is a very charming little house!

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  60. Praise indeed from the beguiling Edna! Nice one, Tess, from an evocative prompt.

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  61. "fresh as a line of sonnets" is a great line and visual for me. Next time I hang clothes I will be smiling and remembering this lovely poem.

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  62. "It's easy, like having another drink when you know you’ve had enough". I know how that goes.

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  63. Dear Willow, Such a wonderfully curious house I can see being the source of your idea that a great poet or writer may live there. And, how skilfully you combine the mundane with the extraordinary....yes, even great artists must hang their washing on the line....but how beautifully they will do it, no doubt!!

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  64. For you it was Edna living in the house; for me it was Emily...

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  65. It is a very pretty little house, so very different from any house to be found this side of the world.
    Your poem and imagination does it not only full justice, it enhances it.

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  66. Oh, Tess, you harken me back to my childhood. Such fond memories relate to laundry day and the hanging of the clothes. I used to walk between the drying sheets (folded in half across the line) pretending they were tents. I can still recall the sweet fresh smell of the sun and the breeze caught in my Mother's clean laundry. I can envision your muse in no better place than this. Great writing!

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  67. Bu sohbet sitesi tek kelimeyle Muhtes. Sohbet Etmek ve Arkadas, Olmak için Arad? Seçmenin Faydalar?

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  68. Well Edna is one hell of a good muse. Poetry at its finest, a pleasure to read.

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  69. This is just pure enjoyment! I love the idea that Millay would be your muse, for one thing, but that she would live in this little dovecote, is the stuff of dreams.

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  70. ah. this is lovely, tess. you, too, toss words like clothespins into baskets. with ever so eloquent arcs.

    btw your collection of peppermills is priceless. i've one too, from egypt, purchased years ago. it sits on a bookshelf as i've never figured out how to open it.

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  71. I thought that was wonderful. The image you give in your writing is so vivid.

    Best, CJ xx

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  72. Excellent, Tess. I particularly like "She tosses words, like clothespins in the basket.."

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  73. Our Edna has been on the hive's
    mind, it seems, since one of her
    poems appeared over on the
    Writer's Almanac this week, and
    I reposted the poem, and was
    thinking about her still when I
    read your stirring and touching
    piece. Millay died too young, like
    Plath, and it is lovely that you
    have this "feeling" about her,
    and that in your fantasy, you could
    hobnob in night clothes, hanging
    pillowcases and swapping the town's
    gossip and your poetics. Is a "tramp-
    coat" like a robe? The vibes you get
    off the little green house is something
    special, especially now that you find
    out it is an appropriate Southern
    camelback. But your encounter with
    a poet that influences you spun me
    off into that realm whereby we find
    ourselves in dialogue with the famous.
    So there I rushed off to, letting the
    image of the little green house slip
    away as the notion of my own dialogue
    rose to the surface.

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  74. Glenn, I like to think of a tramp-coat, as a worn old coat.

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  75. Fresh as a line of sonnets! This is one of my favorites of yours.
    Its stunning, something special.

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  76. Wonderful imagining, Tess. Wonderful poem!

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  77. Oh wonderful! She is my FAVORITE female poet. This is such a charming tribute and an excellent poem.
    What would it be like to have met her. I liked the subtle references to her own words.
    Wonderful! Wonderful!

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  78. Willow,
    Talented and famous are regular people when away from their element.
    That's comforting to know.
    rel

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  79. How clever Tess intertwining Edna St Vincent, the poetess, playwright, feminist and believer in open marriage.

    The line that has me really enthralled is "exhales slow, stamps a cigarette in the grass with a twist of her Pulitzer shoe." My imagination is running wild!

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  80. I came by at a great time. I do enjoy your muse. -J

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  81. You are so amazing! I love your creativity, and this was such a fun read.

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  82. Tess,

    This reads so true. E St V M's image is a sophisticated one, and we would have to approach her -- really, anyone with a grand reputation? -- with deference.

    Even silence.

    On the occasions I've been face-to-face with someone 'of name', I swerve toward being noticed, and in so doing, I'm noticed as an idiot.

    Good poem!

    Trulyfool

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  83. I love the image of tossing her words like clothespins...You certainly have passed Tess:)

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  84. Thought I was too tired for more things of this world, but I can't resist one more; bing in the tea. I'm dreaming of our return to ragged island, of switching our key for the one under the stone by the door in ME.

    Congratulations, Goodnight.

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  85. ps Happy Valentine's Day

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  86. What a delightful poem and I am going to read again a couple of times :)

    You string words so fantastic Tess!!

    Cheers
    Padmavani

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  87. She tosses words, like clothespins
    in the basket

    Love this line. As always your writing is so concise and every word hung on that clothesline to form sentences that come to life...

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  88. Excellent tribute to Millay...I am sure she is smiling....the edged tools...her bible.....bkm

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  89. You have reminded me that I must get a book of her poems. Love your image of her.

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  90. Well done with a true heart!

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  91. nice, and a bit of summer infusion. could use it right now

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  92. "She tosses words, like clothespins
    in the basket"

    my favorite line...

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  93. I like it! For a moment, though, I imagined Susan B's house here in Rochester!

    Rick

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  94. I memorized the final stanza of her "Renascence" as a teen.

    Your idea of the sonnets on the clothesline, with words in the basket like clothespins, is remarkable.

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  95. excellent tess...esp. loved when she hangs pillowcases to dry, fresh
    as a line of sonnets..wonderful

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  96. What a delight, to read your poem and then to hear it in your own voice. Thank you, Tess. I'm trying to remember -- was Ms. Millay at the Manor Ball this last year?

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  97. Love the "nightie and a tramp-coat" combo. Great image. And then her "Pullitzer shoe" - wow. I loved reading this. Thank you.

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  98. Tess- Happy Blog Anniversary! and thanks to you!!! I love this poem of yours- tossing words llike clothespins- simply brilliant!

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  99. Happy One Year Anni, Tess. :-)

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  100. How I love this poem! And the photo, too. I'd like to visit that house...

    My favorite line is "fresh/as a line of sonnets" - you paint such wonderful imagery through your words.

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  101. Dear Tess

    Its interesting.. I liked it.


    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    http://shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.com/2011/02/whispers-another-kind-of-valentines-day.html

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  102. This poem is one of my favorites of yours Willow. I love the image of chatting with an idol over the backyard fence while hanging out the laundry. I'm printing this one out to hang over my desk at work. The images and ideas will brighten my days.

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  103. Clever imagery and referencing. Long may your muse inspire you:-)

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  104. Wonderful prompt and a great poem you wrote! Makes me want to go read some of her poetry right now! And thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Blogoversary!!!

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  105. Oh, Tess, this is gorgeous!

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  106. Wow!! And she sure has style, doesn't she? :)

    Gee, Tess... your imagination and creativity is going over the roof, lady!! This was just awesome!!! Like a movie, it played... smoooothly... :)

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  107. Acceptance into the tribe, eh?!

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  108. Really strong images. So vivid.

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  109. "her rogue image
    candid in a nightie and tramp-coat."

    and "little matters or what gown/or what shows I wear"

    You did her proud!

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  110. Thank-you for the fabulous prompt, Tess.

    I have enjoyed it very much.

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  111. You made me feel good inside.

    The image of your muse, Edna, scribbling sonnets in an easy chair, will also stay with me.

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  112. I am sighing over this...

    Thank you for sharing the image of this little house with us. I would look at it long and long.

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  113. I love your wit and use of metaphors. Wonderful!

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  114. Thank you for all your kind and generous comments. You make writing poetry so very rewarding. xx

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  115. Dear Tess: Impeccable! Totally Perfect! Exquisite! Love the "Pulitzer Shoe" it is dreamy!

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  116. I know this woman! (My late grandmother!)
    :)
    Sarah

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  117. Sarah! No way!! Are you serious?? I am absolutely over-the-top nutty for Edna St. Vincent Millay. Can I touch you??? ;^)

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)