And today's birthday poet is Emily Dickinson.
TO venerate the simple days
Which lead the seasons by,
Needs but to remember
That from you or me
They may take the trifle
To invest existence with a stately air,
Needs but to remember
That the acorn there
Is the egg of forests
For the upper air!
Not BY Emily, but "for" her (on her birthday):
Like Emily Dickinson (1968)
Like Emily Dickinson
tucking tight little poems
into the corners and crannies
of her father's home
I tuck their names
into the crevices
of my crenellated heart.
Lonnie from Tennessee
smiling A-K amp
"Don't mean nothin',
I got another one"
Danny from LA
unable to see
the last dawn we shared
Chief the Ute
willing himself to die
since he could not
will himself to live
a partial man
Pocho from Arizona
who wanted only that
the last words he heard
be in his mother tongue
words rightfully spoken
by his mother who,
absent, became me
Skeets from somewhere
who asked me to sing
because his mother did
The boy with no name
All these and more
I tuck away
later to peruse
perhaps to edit
perhaps to erase
at some leisure time
at penance time
sometime in a future
that leaves them behind
Emily in white,
I in green,
we do our work
endure and abide
tucking away the hurt
saving it for the time
when alcoves need airing
when corners need cleaning
when hearts need healing
when there are no more
convenient to fill.
©1991 by Dusty
First appeared in Visions of War, Dreams of Peace, Warner Books, 1991.
Ed. Lynda Van Devanter and Joan Furey.
Liked to use dashes
Instead of full stops.
Nowadays, faced with such
Critics and editors
Send for the cops.
-- Wendy Cope
There's a page of 'Responses to ED's Legacy' here. [www.iath.virginia.edu] Lots of good stuff!
My favorite by Ed is:
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school where children played,
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then 't is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.
Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.
You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.
The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.
Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.
What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.
--From Picnic, Lightning (University of Pittsburgh Press)
I've been fighting it for some time, but I'm beginning to like Emily Dickinson. Not sure if it's a good thing or not - but she's growing on me. When I first saw 'I could not stop for Death' I hated it, now I like it. Should her work carry a health warning? Or has e-mule eroded my critical faculties beyond repair?
New verb: to emule.
I have been emuled = I am beyond hope.
I emuled her = I left her a gibbering wreck.
Hey, we gibbering wrecks resent that!