The Unsolved Mystery of “Epitaph to a Love” by Mildred Green, 1948
Jessica Sennett

Mildred Green poem

The title of Mildred Green’s piece, “Epitaph to a Love,” highlights both a personal and universal journey through the nature of love and loss. The death of a loved one can revolutionize the spirit of he/she who remains alive. As Green describes in her poem, love is something so vibrant, yet it ultimately falls victim to mortality. She uses strong natural imagery such as “jagged crags of conflict” to explore this “dichotomy” of experience; one where fresh, vulnerable, anticipating youth is torn, broken, and violently excited by the mystical creatures of love.

A brief, two-line introduction of Mildred is given at the beginning to the 12th Street Spring 1948 Quarterly. A Dodgers Fan and a student at The New School, Mildred lived in Brooklyn. The New School Bulletin explains this lack of information about her academic background.  During the spring of 1948, students who did not register for classes directed towards a degree were not documented.  A majority of the student body at this time were women.  Housewives were able to educate themselves during the day while their husbands were at work.  In this circumstance, Mildred stands as an ethereal character in the New School archives.[1]

A deeper investigation of the mysterious Mildred Green unearthed a few other possible leads. An Associate Dean of Suffolk County Community College, who passed away in 1987, was an ambitious African-American woman who simultaneously raised three children, worked at numerous factory jobs, and earned her associate’s degree. Although Suffolk Country Community College has a record of “Epitaph to a Love,” the library could give no further information about the background of this poet.[2]  It seems unlikely that these two Mildred Greens are the one and the same.

Mother’s Inn Center for Creative Living published an 11-page piece in 1978 called “A Corner of Connecticut” by Mildred Green. The remaining copy of this book of poetry can be found at the University of Connecticut. The poems highlight the beauty of Connecticut through its towns and natural landscapes. Further research could not concretely connect the poet of this work to the “Epitaph.” The publishing house has no current contact information and a biography or obituary belonging to the author could not be found. Perhaps in her later years, Green moved to Connecticut, where she may have written this little volume of poetry. At the moment, however, this is pure speculation.

Despite a lack of personal and academic documentation, Green poem reveals a profound vulnerability in her poem. She imagines herself as a young, “frightened hind” sleeping in a “placid lea,” awaiting the devastation of nature that will tear her from this tomb of peace. Her “vernal land” will soon “Decay,” leaving her untouched world of innocence a pasture of chaos and danger. She has fallen prey to the voracious forces of the earth and the sky. She looks in awe at the “gaudy whirring / thing / Conquering the sun with / daring wing” that simultaneously threatens and entices.  This animated, elusive winged creature is a representation of a new-found elevated state of lust for life that defies fear.

Yet rebirth through this imminent death of love is inescapable; the “flame from thy godlike / magnificence” is simultaneously a symbol of heat, destruction, and otherworldly power. It is only through these means that the poet feels fully awake. In this way, the poem implies that her awakening from love has enabled her to transcend death, if only for the moment.

Green’s poem explores a world of love that is brutal, raw, exhilarating, and rejuvenating: “Doors close / Austere and hard. / Chaos is come.” Her piece speaks to both the realist and the romantic in the human struggle towards union, tying nature’s cycle of creation and destruction into the rhythm of falling in love. Perhaps the multiple Mildred Greens, unearthed from their graves, would be able to identify with this struggle.

[1] New School Bulletin 4-5, Sep 1946- May 1948, The New School for Social Research

[2] Schaer, Sidney, C. “Mildred Green, 50, Assistant Dean at College.” Newsday, Combined Editions.  Long Island, NY. 28 July 1987: 35.


Jessica Sennett is a freelance cheese educator and food project builder.  She is using The New School to create a program combining food writing, the arts, and community development.

The Unsolved Mystery of “Epitaph to a Love” by Mildred Green, 1948 / Jessica Sennett

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