Wonderful rotation

Frequently the woods are pink,
Frequently are brown;
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town.

Oft a head is crested
I was wont to see,
And as oft a cranny
Where it used to be.

And the earth, they tell me,
On its axis turned,—
Wonderful rotation
By but twelve performed!

~Emily Dickinson
Image by Valentin Antonucci via Pexels.

Another wonderfully Emily poem. The first stanza is completely comprehensible. Spring, autumn, and winter come again and again. The cycles of nature repeat. So far so good.

The second stanza gets more riddle-y. “Oft a head is crested” that the speaker is used to seeing. What is the head? Is it the head of an actual person, or is she talking about something else? Probably something else, because often there’s a cranny where it used to be. I’m not sure exactly what the “head” here is, but it’s still clear she’s talking about change over time. Often she sees something familiar, but as often it’s gone.

“And the earth, they tell me, / On its axis turned” is a wonderful way of capturing the feeling we all have at the swift passage of time. The speaker describes herself as outside the common knowledge, needing to be told that this magic of change is the work of the world turning. This “Wonderful rotation” is performed by only twelve–the months.

I love the riddling quality of this poem, all the little nuances of the speaker’s character, her awed response to the change of seasons that most of us generally take completely for granted. It seems a fitting poem for the second-to-last day of the year.

Truth?

The reticent volcano keeps
His never slumbering plan;
Confided are his projects pink
To no precarious man.


If nature will not tell the tale
Jehovah told to her,
Can human nature not survive
Without a listener?


Admonished by her buckled lips
Let every babbler be.
The only secret people keep
Is Immortality.

~emily dickinson

I love the idea of a volcano with pink projects. I wonder, though–is Dickinson right? Is it really not in human nature to keep secrets? My first reaction is yes, absolutely. We can’t keep secrets.

But then I think of all the secrets that we do keep. Yes, we often blab when we shouldn’t–but then, too often we remain silent when the truth would be a saving grace.

Maybe it’s not that we can’t keep secrets, but that we’re not good at knowing which ones to tell and which to keep…