Before the ice is in the pools,
Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall
Is tarnished by the snow,
Before the fields have finished,
Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder
Will arrive to me!
What we touch the hems of
On a summer’s day;
What is only walking
Just a bridge away;
That which sings so, speaks so,~Emily Dickinson
When there’s no one here,—
Will the frock I wept in
Answer me to wear?
I love the icy imagery in this poem. As I read through it for the third or fourth time, though, what I’m imagining is an Emily Dickinson blog post-writing bot. It could select from various options, the most common of which would be “this is a poem about death.”
As Emily Dickinson death poems go, however, this is a lovely one. Death is described as “Wonder upon wonder.” My favorite part is the third stanza. The idea that another world lingers just at the edge of our vision is a compelling one. This is definitely not an angsty Dickinson death poem. Death here is like the turning of the seasons, a natural part of the cycle of life, and is couched as such–but with a magical spin.
‘Twas just this time, last year, I died.
I know I heard the Corn,
When I was carried by the Farms —
It had the Tassels on —
I thought how yellow it would look —
When Richard went to mill —
And then, I wanted to get out,
But something held my will.
I thought just how Red — Apples wedged
The Stubble’s joints between —
And the Carts stooping round the fields
To take the Pumpkins in —
I wondered which would miss me, least,
And when Thanksgiving, came,
If Father’d multiply the plates —
To make an even Sum —
And would it blur the Christmas glee
My Stocking hang too high
For any Santa Claus to reach
The Altitude of me —
But this sort, grieved myself,~Emily Dickinson
And so, I thought the other way,
How just this time, some perfect year —
Themself, should come to me —
We’re in the thick of National Novel Writing Month, so let’s do a prompt! If you’re stuck and not sure what to write, imagine your main character speaking from beyond the grave. What would they say? What would they care about–and whom? Or, if that’s way too far outside the bounds of your story, imagine what they would think about when they think about having died. Do they believe in an afterlife? What kind? How does this impact the way they behave and believe in this life?