a perished sun

We learn in the retreating
How vast an one
Was recently among us.
A perished sun

Endears in the departure
How doubly more
Than all the golden presence
It was before!

~Emily Dickinson
Image via Pexels.

Today is the darkest day of the year. The winter solstice. This seems like a fitting poem for the day. May you be warm and loved, and may you find light even in the longest night.

The Juggler of Day

BLAZING in gold and quenching in purple,
Leaping like leopards to the sky,
Then at the feet of the old horizon
Laying her spotted face, to die;

Stooping as low as the otter’s window,
Touching the roof and tinting the barn,
Kissing her bonnet to the meadow,–
And the juggler of day is gone!

Emily Dickinson

Prompt: look at the many ways Dickinson describes the sun. It’s a leopard and an otter; it’s actively doing lots of things: blazing, quenching, stooping, tinting, etc. What other animals can you use to describe the sun? What other things does it do?

The sun’s leaving

The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.

She felt herself supremer,—
A raised, ethereal thing;
Henceforth for her what holiday!
Meanwhile, her wheeling king

Trailed slow along the orchards
His haughty, spangled hems,
Leaving a new necessity,—
The want of diadems!

The morning fluttered, staggered,
Felt feebly for her crown,—
Her unanointed forehead
Henceforth her only one.

~Emily Dickinson

Getting caught up on a zillion neglected things this Memorial Day weekend, so today’s post is just a poem and the sun setting over the Alleghenies. Here’s to sun-filled days and starry nights!

Had I not seen the sun

Had I not seen the Sun

I could have borne the shade

But Light a newer Wilderness

My Wilderness has made —

I decided to look for a sunny poem today. I needed a sunny poem today. Or, at least, today felt worthy of one. When I left the house this morning, Amelia and I bundled in heavy coats and gloves, the air outside was so frigid you could see it thrumming out of exhaust pipes and coalescing into vapor above chimneys. My car, safely tucked away in the garage all night, was free from frost; others that I saw on the road weren’t so lucky.

The sky was pinky blue: pastel colors that just screamed cold. Everything about this morning looked and felt like snow except for one thing: we had no snow.

It was cold enough that I felt bad for the car line lady who helped Amelia out of her seat and into school. It was cold enough to wear gloves for the 60-second walk from my parking spot into my building. It was cold enough to wear my coat for the first 20 minutes of class. And then it was gone. By the time 10:00 rolled around, the sun was out, temperatures were rising, and I no longer needed my scarf. I was, in fact, resentful of it as I carried a huge back of Norton anthologies into my office.

Today looks and feels like spring. That’s not uncommon in Alabama; we’ll have cold snaps and heat waves for several months yet. So when I looked for a sun poem, that’s what I thought I’d get. I should have known that I’d be wrong. This poem is not daisies and fresh-cut hay. It’s a lament. It’s the sadness of knowledge gained: I was in the shadows, and then I saw how wonderful sunlight is, and now I yearn for it and know that I’ve been missing something, and that I could miss it again.

This poem reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s short story “All Summer in a Day,” which takes place on Venus. There, residents live in perpetual darkness, because there’s only one day of sunlight every seven years. When a little girl tells her classmates what she remembers of the sun, being a more recent transplant from Earth, her cruel fellow students lock her in a closet during the sunlight so that she, the only one of them who remembers sunlight at all, misses it entirely.

I’m not sure what Dickinson’s Wilderness means, or how it changed after she saw her Sun. But it’s an interesting question, I think, of whether one might live more happily in the shade, not comprehending any light, or whether knowing about it–wilding your own Wilderness–would bring happiness, too.