It would be Life –
And Life is over there –
Behind the Shelf"
There are more ways than one--
that books can burn.
We sat in high school English class,
blank as babies--
as disinterested as the wrong lover--
being spoon fed the prescribed pablum
our curriculum required.
Our teacher was a young guy with a mustache--
nothing sinister about him.
He told us,
"This poem of longing expresses Emily Dickinson's desire
for a Philadelphia minister
whom she heard preach only once."
or Judge Otis Lord.
or Kermit the fucking frog.
I felt the fire.
I felt the funnel begin to turn--
the Rotation and the Dip--
and everything I had known or thought before was just blown to sticks and dust.
I got the infection,
felt the calling--
to put words to the weather of my heart.
In 2007, I visited the Dickinson Homestead in Amherst.
I saw the room--
the unassuming small space
where Emily wrote her soul out on paper,
then carefully stored it in a trunk under the bed.
Out the window,
the trees and garden, those double spirits,
vessels for both their own beauty and the beauty she gave them--
with each word, leaving the flesh and divinity of herself
caught on every thorn and stone.
Across the way, The Evergreens--
home to her brother and his wife Susan.
she is a Siren--
and that at a
word from her,
To a woman who felt everything,
this must have been the most exquisite torment--
a gorgeous bird contained in the cage of her time and mores,
and able to be holy enough,
and profane enough,
and human enough,
to make such torture so beautiful that it saturates Sight.
To own a
Is of itself
The most particular and intimate feathers
held in those wings beneath her bed,
were fed to the fire
upon her death.
In that room, and in the garden later on,
She was there,
and she blessed me.
In the simple passion of every word,
she told me, sister, sing it.
Over so many seasons, one bird can't last,
but another of its kind can lift her head
and there are the notes, still sung, from a Twin Heart.
But Susan is
a Stranger yet--
The Ones who
cite her most
Have never scaled
her Haunted House
To pity those who
know her not
Is helped by the
That those who
know her know
The nearer her
My friend had given me a choice, the last day of my visit--
to meet her new musician girlfriend,
or go to Amherst to see the Homestead.
All the way from Plymouth, she played the girlfriend's only cd--
great the first time, then good, then...
well, she's in love, and she's making this trip for me.
She couldn't stand it, though, by the end of the tour.
"Why isn't there anything about Emily Dickinson's lesbianism?"
Our guide answered smooth as Teflon,
the non-answer she had been trained to give,
and quickly switched to a short course on the furniture.
I felt it, in waves, coming off my friend as she drove.
I felt it from Emily,
with the Evergreens as near as truth ever gets,
and as far, in its way, as places foreign on my Homesick eye.
And were You lost, I would be –So We must meet apart –
Though My Name
On the Heavenly fame –
And were You – saved –
And I – condemned to be
Where You were not –
That self – were Hell to Me –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
"I Cannot Live With You" and the three quoted pieces written by Emily Dickinson. I hope that I have done her justice with the rest.
For Corey's "Destinations and Dialogue" challenge at Real Toads.