Poem-a-Day Friday: Emily Dickinson

Su Blackwell "While you were sleeping" 2004

May 15 was the anniversary of Emily Dickinson‘s death, 126 years ago. I have this deep friendship with Emily in my head. She laments like no one else. If I could take any class right now, it would be a Dickinson class. My deepest regret from grad school was dropping the Emily Dickinson/Walt Whitman course that would have made me poetry genius. (I was taking too many classes that semester and, alas, it was the responsible thing to do. But I’m still sad about it.)

I imagine her as deeply introverted, naturally depressed, awkward and full of kindness. I love her for her words but also for all that gingerbread she passed through the second-floor window of her home to the neighborhood children. And, I feel sad for her. I know the thick slime that can trap you in your own home. I haven’t obsessively worn a white dress every day of my current life, but I would’t put it past Future Micha.

This poem is one of my favorites.


After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)


After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –


Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999) via Poetry Foundation 


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