How do you describe heartbreak? Edna St. Vincent Millay answers this question in her poem, “What lips my lips have kissed”, by using metaphors. When she says, “thus in the winter stands the lonely tree”, she is describing heartbreak as lonesome and cold. The juxtaposition in using a beautiful scene, like a tree in winter, to describe something so sad and somber as a heartbreak. Also, at the end of her poem, she says “I only know that summer sang in me/ a little while, that in me sings no more”. Again Millay uses imagery to describe her lovers as summer and as she forgets them, summer isn’t in her anymore. This means the heartbreak is like stepping from summer and warmth and having taken away. This poem has changed the way I view breakups. Because although it’s true that after some time you get over the pain when the person you liked leaves you, there are some that you can’t forget because they’ve impacted you.
In the 4th line of the first stanza, Millay tries to remember the people she has been with in past relationships and she cannot remember. She writes, “but the rain/ is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh”. When you think of rain it’s like sad and gloomy, and ghosts could also be like souls. Souls don’t only have to associate with the occult and paranormal, they can also be referred to as one’s being. So perhaps the ghosts in the rain could just be mournful people. These people could be the people she has kissed before, her past lovers. The ghosts are metaphors for her sad past lovers that dwell in the rain. But not actual rain, the rain is used to represent sadness. People say that even if people leave, they always have a place in their heart. This could mean that she used to remember these people but gradually she’s forgetting them and they’re turning into ghosts in her heart, slowly fading away. A question raised for me was what is heartbreak? This poem answers this question by using images such as “and in my heart stirs a quiet pain” which shows us that heartbreak is painful and hurtful.