4: “Only the tears” (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

“A Song of Shattering”
         -Edna St. Vincent Millay

For you there is no song . . .
         Only the shaking
Of the voice that meant to sing; the sound of the strong
         Voice breaking.

Strange in my hand appears
         The pen, and yours broken.
There are ink and tears on the page; only the tears
         Have spoken.

         Sometimes I hear people speak honestly and beautifully about the matters closest to their hearts. And sometimes, when they speak of those things, their voices break and they start crying. The next thing they often say confuses me: they often say, “I’m sorry.” There was nothing to be sorry for.
         Millay is a beautiful singer, but she reminds us that “the sound of a strong voice breaking” is as powerful as any lyric. She is a poetic writer, and reminds us that, sometimes, our tears say everything we hoped to say, and couldn’t put to words.
         I’ve been talking recently with my brother about how we can be good parents, good siblings, good children or good friends. Millay tells me: a lot of the time, let yourself be, and then you can let yourself be where you are. Be in the sorrow, in the scream, in the tears. Be in the confusion, the moment in which you don’t know what to say or do. As long as you don’t run away, as long as you are present, you are saying something important. You are there, and your silence or your presence, your tears, or the hand you rest on a friend’s shoulder–all these things say a magnificent something.
         What if we made peace with our own broken pieces, and learned to let the tears (and the broken moments, and the connections we find even there) speak. I want to do that, but sometimes, I also worry that my tears have nothing to say. When I worry that, I try to remember the last time I held a friend while he cried. I knew how much he was saying. Can I remember that for myself?

4 thoughts on “4: “Only the tears” (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

    1. When I was talking with Lorian, we talked about how someone could be the rock in the river that sits calmly, firmly where it is, and the water that flows easily with the current, and the trees on the bank that feel warm sun and reach toward it. Maybe, in that metaphor, our emotions are the water.


  1. Well said. Two thumbs up, I’d give more if I had more. You brighten my Wednesdays. Keep writing, keep living, thank you for sharing.


    1. Thank you, Jai. It’s nice to have the habit of trying to follow one idea a week, so that I have something to share. It reminds me of that line from George Bernard Shaw: “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I’ve made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”


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