Edna St. Vincent Millay





An Ancient Gesture
from Mine the Harvest

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron: 
Penelope did this too. 
And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day 
And undoing it all through the night; 
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight; 
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light, 
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years. 
Suddenly you burst into tears; 
There is simply nothing else to do.  

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron: 
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique, 
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek; 
Ulysses did this too. 
But only as a gesture, -- a gesture which implied 
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak. 
He learned it from Penelope... 
Penelope, who really cried.