Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dear Red

The Soul selects her own Society--
Then--shuts the Door--
To her divine Majority--
Present no more--

Unmoved--she notes the Chariots--pausing--
At her low Gate--
Unmoved--an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat--

I've known her--from an ample nation--
Choose One--
Then--close the Valves of her attention--
Like Stone--

(written by Emily Dickinson)

Dear Red--
Are you at your table--by the window--
Beyond the Evergreens
Where I beheld You once?

In the Room where you welcomed me--
An old Friend--
As though we had been--for a Moment--interrupted
And so easily--Again--picked up?

They think you a hermit, my Red--
A mouse--by baseboard held--defined--
But you are a Heart--Divine by nature
A Soul in Flame--beyond confine--

Dear Red--I know--She is near as your next Breath--
Yet as Distant--as Persia--or Africa's Nile--
A peculiar Torment--a lifesblood of words
For Her--survives--through Eternity's while--

Dear Red--
I know the Heart--forever in debt--
Written out--put Away--folded neatly, like linens--
I know what it Cost--I know what it Meant.
for Kenia's challenge at Real Toads

Note: for those who do not know, or read here regularly, when I visited her home in Amherst, in 2007, I felt Emily there; not in any vague sense, but THERE, and personally. She was glad I had come, she welcomed me, and she knew about my writing. It was, for me, an intense and spiritual experience.

E.D. was in love with her sister in law, Susan Huntington Dickinson (see the book "Open Me Carefully") who was married to her brother and lived next door at The Evergreens. The relationship spanned decades, shows up again and again in Emily's poems ("I Cannot Live With You"), and must have been both sustaining and incredibly frustrating for Emily.

I tried to find the version of her featured poem, above, which seemed to me to be most true to Emily's actual style. One of the things I love dearly about her is that she wrote in her own amazing and unique way, resisting advice to write in a style more in keeping with contemporary convention. Up at least into the 1950s, and even today, editors have changed her punctuation, capitalizations, and even her wording, to make it more conventional. (Why?!?) 


hedgewitch said...

I think you finally got the challenge. Beautiful ode to Ms Emily, and a sister's skin in the writing. The heart forever in debt, the mouse held and defined by the baseboard it scurries along, the song that has to be sung without knowing if it's ever heard...perfect image vignettes that add up to a lovely piece, Shay.

Cloudia said...

you always challenge me!
Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

Brian Miller said...

In the Room where you welcomed me--
An old Friend--
As though we had been--for a Moment--interrupted
And so easily--Again--picked up?

love that verse...made me did your last

HermanTurnip said...

Great homage. Not patronizing, but rather challenging and intense. Took multiple readings to flesh this one out. Liked it!

nene said...

I welcome your sharing your visit with 'dear red'(ed).
Souls, insoluble, binds them, neither, in time.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Firstly I have to tell you that I have long held the first two lines of Dickinson's poem as a personal mantra: I reserve the right to select my own company :)

I love your response to her, the gentle wisdom and sense of togetherness is profound.

I especially loved these lines:

But you are a Heart--Divine by nature
A Soul in Flame--beyond confine--

Sioux said...

Your question at the end---Why?--is powerful. Why indeed? Poets choose their white spaces, their punctuation, their words carefully. To think for a poet and change things is beyond offensive.

As we've seen in the past, you channel Emily with a gentle touch that is amazing...

Marion said...

Well, thank you very much. I just had to buy that book at Amazon. There goes my resolution to not buy books. LOL! An awesome write, Shay. I've loved Emily since I was about 12. Fabulous post. xo

Daryl Edelstein said...

a tribute .. and what a sacrilege it is to rewrite or even re-punctuate her work

ellen abbott said...

I think you do her great justice.

Mary said...

You wrote as if you actually do know her, and, of course, you DO. Beautiful and gentle poem. I had not realized that E. was in love with her sister-in-law; and also learned quite recently that others changed Emily's punctuation. Why indeed!

Mama Zen said...

This is so gorgeous and tender. Beautiful, Shay.

Caty said...

I love when you write (talk) to Emily and let us all see it :)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Loved the poetic conversation between two amazing poets, and your notes underneath. I can imagine what it must have been to feel Emily's presence when you visited. She would of course be glad you had come - if she were living now, she would admire your work. I, too, love the distinctiveness and originality of her dashes, punctuation, capitalisations, and cant imagine anyone tampering with what is so unique.

Lynn said...

That's lovely Shay and very cool that you got to visit Emily Dickenson's home.

Anonymous said...

What a great letter to Emily, revealing a deep influence that has seen no need to Emulate in the Manner of Your usual Disquieting verse Epistles. So many read ED with the same intimacy, feel it is our soul alone she speaks with in the casual manner of an afternoon chat: She taught us how to speak with ourselves, I guess, or our own souls, independent of any wider readership. First things first for every poet, don't you think: if we can't say it adequately to our own hearts, then what hope have we of speaking of such things here? "A Soul in Flame--beyond confine," yes -- and a redhead too, or just a spiritual one? Either way, ED's pedestel just wowed up another height for me. Fine work FB_ -- Brendan

William A. Sigler said...

OK, first off I read you all the time but never write (what's to add?), but this seems like such a sweet response to my own recent strange encounter with ED I have to chime in. Thank you for the poem, and the room -- it is just right.

Fireblossom said...

Brendan--yes, Emily was a redhead! :-)

Scarlet said...

Emily would be proud. Beautiful, Shay!

Lolamouse said...

What a lovely letter to a soulmate. It is insulting to have one's work rewritten without one's consent. My guess is that no one would ever consider doing this to a male poet. His work would be considered unconventional in a good way!

Anonymous said...

this is a perfect example of why Ms D welcomed you personally! as good as she is... you often surpass!

and surpass and surpass and surpass!

{stop showing off! .....please? can't you, just once, write a bad poem? or at least, just an average one? i know... impossible! i love you anyway.}