Posts Tagged ‘emily dickinson’

Becoming the Bird

Once on a bridge
I had met a hope,
a radiant maybe,
a glint of perhaps,
but I am so far
from that glint today
that when I stand
again on that bridge
I almost hate hope
with its stupid wings,
always promising
to carry us toward
something better.
I stand on that bridge
and stand on that bridge,
my inner perch
empty, silent.
I turn to face
the autumn wind.
It batters my bare skin. 
I sing full-throat into the gale.

*This poem is in conversation with Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers …” which you can find here

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And as I merge onto the interstate
with its ten lanes of traffic and
semis and tolls, Emily sits primly
in the back seat and doesn’t
say a word. She was a bit reticent
to come along—we’re a long way
from Amherst, after all—but
she admitted she was tired
of the New England weather
and longed for something new.
As it is, it’s raining in Houston,
and the puddles on the pavement                                                                  
splash up onto the windshield
and I grip the wheel more tightly,
sensing Emily’s rising panic.
All around us cars weave
and unweave, changing lanes,
charging the world with an unbraiding
rush. Then she says in a voice so quiet
I can barely hear it beneath
the hum of passing cars,
I loved someone once. It felt
something like this. Beside us,
a siren wails. Yes, she says,
fisting the white skirts of her dress,
Yes, it was exactly like this.

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They say you left your house just once

in your last fifteen years—

you slipped alone through veil of night

to see a new-built church.

And rumor says the moon was full

when you escaped your walls—

you had no need for candlelight,

the evening led you well.

Tonight round shines the Hunter’s moon—

so dazzling is the dome

that all the world feels like a church

and night itself a poem.

Perhaps that’s what you understood

and lost your need to leave—

each room, each place is holy

and has a gift to give.

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We are the only poets, and everyone else is prose.

—Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Susan Gilbert



It is perhaps an inner drum,

the meter of the soul

that sometimes finds a resonance

inside another’s halls—


an inner song, an inner scheme

that rhymes with someone else’s,

a dream that scans like heartbeats

inside the other’s pulse.


Yes in this world of counterfeit,

such thrill to find a poem

that redefines Circumference—

and curious, leads us home.





for more on the love letters and life-changing love of Emily Dickinson, read the fabulous Brain Pickings by Maria Popova,



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Mom, she says, I don’t know what it was about that book,

but the pages were falling out and it smelled old

and I think it cast a spell on me.

And I recall the first time I read Emily,

an old cloth book with the text debossed,

how I ran my fingers over the words

and felt them as I read them:

“As imperceptibly as Grief

The Summer lapsed away—”

Mom, she says, I didn’t even understand

a single word I read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

And now, I think that book is haunting me.

We are making her bed just before she sleeps,

and I tug on the covers to straighten them.

Yes, I say, her words are like spells.

I memorized that poem, though I was

too young to know of “courteous

and harrowing grace.” I knew only

that when I said the words, they gave

me such an openness, a wideness, a delight,

as if morning found its way into my chest,

and now, thirty years later, the early light

still touches me, still thralls.

The bed remade, she slips beneath

and I lay at her feet and for a time we read.

I want to talk more about Emily,

but the spell is her own and I don’t

want to trespass her magic,

the wonder she feels.

Perhaps someday she, too,

will read these lines,

“Our Summer made her light escape

into the beautiful.”

and know herself more beautiful

for having let them touch her.


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Sometimes I wish that Emily
would come knock at my door,
and she’d be wearing white, of course,
and I would bid her in.

And then I might confess to her
as through the door she passed,
“Oh Friend! I’d say, “I’m Nobody!
We are in fact a pair!

But that would be too Somebody
of me to say, I’m sure.
So I would simply let her in
and show her to the couch.

We’d sit and drink a bit of tea.
I imagine it is black.
Would she take sugar? I don’t know.
I’d offer anyway

with cookies that I baked today
the ones with mint inside.
We’d take turns sipping at our tea
and then resting our cups.

I would be sure to not step on
long pauses when she spoke—
just waiting for the full effect
when her words land on me

as oftentimes they do these days,
as when last week I read
again the lines about one’s name,
about the tiresome bog.

I felt such longing in me then
to be a Nobody.
and thought, “You’re so right, Emily,”
But she’d hate to be named.

So when she sits across from me
I never mention how
I’ve read all of her poetry,
I never say her name.

And I don’t dream of asking her
of where she got her thoughts,
the line, for instance, with the frog
the line about the bog.

I simply say, Oh look, the sun,
it’s very nearly down.
And would you like another cup,
before the light escapes.

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How the old mountains drip with sunset
—Emily Dickinson

Dear Emily,

It was just as you said, tonight,
the San Juans rose and blue,
and in the shallow reservoir,
the herons dripping, too—
I did not mean to startle them
as grayly there they stood,
but on hushed feet I stepped myself
into solitude.
Wing after wing they rowed themselves
into the muted dome
till all went dim—oh dark abyss!—
and we were held as one.

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