The small tin box holding keys and dried flowers,
A grayness kept for thirty years—
Freedom to grieve, a stain in the attic.
There must have been a world before this.
These lines by Emily Dickinson have long puzzled me:
“That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.”
The first two lines are an assertion and express a sentiment older than Plato. The second two lines create a problem as while we dimly understand love and accept this condition, now there’s a simile dressed as a metaphor, we carry our inexact knowledge of love like freight (which we assume is heavy) and further, that freight is proportioned to the groove by which she means a furrow—so there’s a plough in this figure, we press down with our limited knowledge of love into the field of life. But what about “proportioned”? She means, I think, that our thinking of love should be in accordance to the lives we’re “in” and not according to the lives of others. In the end the effect is lonely. Love confounds. Keep ploughing according to your own understanding.
In his excellent book “Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief” Robert Lundin writes: “Dickinson realized that belief is an art that demands trial and practice. A product of the romantic age and a prophet of modernity, she comprehended more fully than most people in her day how much the human mind contributes to the process of belief. Art, after all, is about the making of things; and in matters of belief, the history of the modern world is the story of our increasing awareness of the extent to which we participate in the making of truth as well as in the finding of it.”
Are making and finding connected to “proportionate”? Are truth and faith? One has to conclude that faith has material effects much as Spinoza told us—God is in the gravity and answers no prayers. God in the Spinozan sense is not concerned with you but is nature alone. Proportoniate means in this sense a man or woman corresponds exactly to something else. We are each responsible for the proportioned making of our places in the world. Faith, as Dickinson understood it, is material.
I was Lord Byron with a club foot
But unlike my blind waking self
Many people loved me —
And assorted credulous ones
Anyway the dream went on without poetry the way they tend to do…
No one can describe the happiness of others. We’re like dogs barking at hieroglyphs when we talk about emotion.
Christ I spent years studying poetry and all I know is its a dream, this business of inter-personal comprehension. I hardly know myself.
About this life I recognize only a few bare details. I’ve a better chance calming the wind than understanding it.
They try to break you by not being obvious
Housing prices go up if you’re Black
December rain on your neck
“We can’t install a ramp…”
Where are Shelley’s legislators
Where is Batman
A bus rumbles by with an advertisement for lawyers
Do you think the attorneys read poetry
My dog looks at me
Don’t worry I tell her
It’s just seasonal tears
Last night I had dark dreams
“Oh well,” says my left hand—
The mature one
She’s dreaming still
Deep in Rachmaninoff….
What happens now
When, after reading for hours
The winter rain falling
I see again in you
Not beauty but sacrifice?
“Intelligence, give me
The exact name”
The flower in mind
I remember bitter thing
What you were like
Plucked from some garden
Between light and shade
I am today clinging to beauty for all its worth
Though the professors
Disagree about the value of Keats
Or Bartok—my god
They think its transactional
As in, “I hand you a rose
And you give me your hopes”
You see, I wish you
To keep them, your beauty hopes,
Inelegant or overused
As they may be
Wing shadow on the pond
That toothless folk tune
Going around again
Don’t kid yourself, they’re hanging from vines
While railways run on
And radios play from windows…
Once, riding a gondola
I heard Nina Simone from on high
She was singing of her liver
I had no one to tell
Except my guide dog
And the gondolier
Who was smoking
Fighting for something
I couldn’t name
The cripples making beauty
Before they drop
Life was left sitting alone like a custodian.
School kids were herded past and told to ignore what they didn’t understand.
“We have the most commodified kids in the world here,” said Dr. Tiptoe.
When I die I hope I can really taste the birch leaves.
My clothes traveled far. I didn’t always appreciate their faithfulness.
Tolstoy: “I wanted to run after him, but remembered that it is ridiculous to run after one’s wife’s lover in one’s socks; and I did not wish to be ridiculous but terrible.”
If you want to be terrible you have to practice by sitting still.
A dog month, is a pomegranate split, thirty days of seeds.
Only in New Hampshire can you vote for a Nazi by mistake.
Edith Sodergran: “Every poem shall be the tearing up of a poem…”
Oh my feet, you moth eaten grand seigneurs, keep talking. It’s OK.
Sitting in the railway station got a ticket for my destination, woo hoo, and the late December light falls over my hair from a high window though I can’t see it being visually impaired, woo hoo, but there’s heat on my dome, woo hoo, and because I read mucho poetry in my youth, I’ve got lines by Lorca: “A remembrance is moving down the long memory disturbing the delicate leaves with its dry feet…” Oh my bird, my dead singer, pal of my childhood, how good it is to have you back. And I am holding still without turning my head.