blush of dawn Jade Nicole Beals

She May Have Died Long Ago But We Can Still Collaborate

(a photo from fall)

This idea came to me. I love to read poems by authors of the past and of today and some may touch me with ideas like my own whether we lived in the same time or place or not. I thought it might be an illuminating, fun experience to read a poem by an author from another time and write my own with their words, so it is like we’ve collaborated. I see this not as ‘fixing’ or ‘editing’ their poem but creating something with them.

A few days ago, I read a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay called “Not In A Silver Casket Cool With Pearls.”

I wrote this version of it that I’d write, not keeping the same traditional form but with the same title and many of the words she’d written, and changing others and adding my own:

Not In A Silver Casket Cool With Pearls

Not in a silver casket cool with pearls 

Or rich with red thread or with blue, 

Locked and the key withheld others

Have given their loves;

Not in a lovers’ knot, not in a ring 

Meant more for legend than meaning,

I give my love to you.

Love, no thing but that,

Ungemmed, open, as I should bring you

Cowslips swung from my hand, or apples 

From the folds of my skirt, saying,

“Look at what I’ve found. These are all 

for you.”


And this is Edna’s original poem in traditional form:

Not In A Silver Casket Cool With Pearls

Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
Or rich with red corundum or with blue,
Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
Have given their loves, I give my love to you;
Not in a lovers’-knot, not in a ring
Worked in such fashion, and the legend plain—
Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:
Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring you, calling out as children do:

“Look what I have!—And these are all for you.”


Everyone has their own way of loving; they can be different, but I loved this poem because it reminded me of how I love: it is the way I feel, without a need to possess someone, and so they feel free to be themselves, and because it comes, and a person may just delight me.

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