Saturday, August 4, 2012

Old Lace

EmilyDickinsonGrave-color

 Old Lace

"I am small, like the wren, and my hair is bold, like the chestnut bur, and my eyes like the sherry in the glass that the guest leaves."
~Emily Dickinson*



The banner was large but she was small,
and near as a girl's blue-gowned doll--
but still-- big enough to be
picked up and thrown down, so she
made herself small as poppy seed
blown away before she'd bleed
blackened snow
on another knot of dough.

Age began to twist-- and clutch--
to spot the careful square of lace with such
delicate blotted tears--
cindered brown the daisy years
to ecru tracery drawn of voids defined--
cool cotton-- on the cheek that pain refined
loss stretched shapeless, damp sheets rucked
by a called back touch.

It became her business only
to grow flowers for the lonely--
behind a closing door, a dreaming eye--
to listen-- in the wildest night 
to a pen scratching black on white
the buzz of bees in reverie--
to never see the sea--
to never see-- love be.

~August 2012





*in a letter to Thos. Wentworth Higginson

 







Posted for   Poetics   at dVerse Poet's Pub
where Brian Miller is hosting a prompt about what might be hidden in the folds of that faded lacy hanky known as history.



Process Notes: I have made uncharacteristic and liberal use of the dash in this piece, my clumsy tribute to Miss Dickinson's iconic form.



Header Image: Emily Dickinson's grave in the family plot, photo by MidnightDreary
Shared under a Creative Commons License, via wikimedia commons
Footer Image: Cover of Poems, by Emily Dickinson, 1890
(archive.org) [Public domain], via wikimedia Commons

38 comments:

  1. smiles...i like a bit of a dash you know...smiles....a wonderful verse you have spun for her...nice tension in the first stanza...lot of feeling in the last as well as you uncover her heart just a bit....

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  2. Shame that- if lucky- eventually we all go to the same old place old lace...
    Amazing tribute to Ms Dickinson- sad to never see love be.

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  3. I loved it all, but that second stanza really popped out for me, the lines of age and spots on the handkerchief. Wonderful and elegant.

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  4. Lovely set of images and use of language that evoke one of the poetical great

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  5. "but still-- big enough to be
    picked up and thrown down, so she
    made herself small as poppy seed
    blown away before she'd bleed . . ."

    Oh Emily!

    "It became her business only
    to grow flowers for the lonely--"

    Lovely through and through: the lace, the void, the poems!

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    1. Thank you, Susan--you always read with feeling.

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  6. Absolutely beautiful - - small as a poppy seed - that took my breath away! K

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  7. i don't know much about her but could feel her in your verse..esp. loved...

    It became her business only
    to grow flowers for the lonely--
    behind a closing door, a dreaming eye--
    to listen-- in the wildest night
    to a pen scratching black on white... it's like a painting with some dark colors without feeling dark (if that makes sense...) --- oh--- and i loved the dashes-- smiles

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  8. Joy, this is a wonderfully crafted homage to an elusive woman and fierce poetic voice. I love the measured form, the use of dashes, the selection of language to capture some of Emily's ephemeral nature:

    small as poppy seed
    blown away

    The whole is magnificent :)

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  9. you pull together much of what I've learned about her life. there is fragility, purpose, pain-without dramatic suffering. "damp sheets rucked by a called back touch" is where I began to feel some relief and acceptance. "the buzz of bees in reverie" reminds me that love, even as it holds us universally, also sings to us individually. this is thought provoking and lovely.

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  10. Ah, such a great close especially. You bring in all these bits of poems - I heard a buzz inside my head--isnt there something like that - I keep thinking cathedral in my brain but I know that has a "heft" in it. And the floorboards! And the wild nights!


    The whole poem is wonderful--the details just terrific and beautifully laid out, but of course, those are more the wonderful details caught by Hedgewitch. In the final stanza particularly the last few lines, you are really channelling Her, especially last couplet I think where you've absolutely got her, but not with as direct a reference.

    to listen-- in the wildest night
    to a pen scratching black on white
    the buzz of bees in reverie--
    to never see the sea--
    to never see-- love be.


    Really terrific. k.

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    1. Thanks, k. I wouldn't presume that I could get close to her style, but if you hear something of her there, I'm happy. Yes, there is a buzz poem like that, but she also wrote many about bees. I had my favorite one on the Off the Shelf page a few months back: "To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
      One clover, and a bee,
      And revery.
      The revery alone will do
      If bees are few."
      I don't have the knack for short form to even get near something like that, but I do love it.

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  11. Wow.

    "made herself small as poppy seed
    blown away before she'd bleed"

    "cindered brown the daisy years"

    "loss stretched shapeless, damp sheets rucked
    by a called back touch"

    Packed with pain and sorrow, protecting self with bubble wrap.

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  12. You captured her so well... the first stanza felt like a punch that kept me riled until the very last line. Great response to the prompt.

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  13. I am a huge fan of Emily Dickinson so of course I love this. But as always you captured the very essence of what her life was like in such a beautiful way.

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  14. Oh the final stanza knocked me out - it's perfect!

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  15. Lovely share Hedge ~ That last stanza knocked the breath out of me ~

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  16. she loved.
    she casts a long shadow
    of tenderness and perception.
    we still love her flowers.

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  17. I adore this. I'm so sleepy right now that I cannot comment properly, but I will be back in the morning to do that. I just had to say now, though, how much I enjoyed reading this.

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  18. I enjoyed reading this too...very much. And loved the touching reference to a lace handkerchief that aged along with her..and at the last, revealing more of her sequestered life.

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  19. cool cotton-- on the cheek that pain refined

    at this line my heart catches in my throat

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  20. This is a sad one, very sad but black pen to white paper is the only tale...very good. gardenlilie.com

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  21. Great write Hedge. Really funny actually, I was at Barnes and Nobles this morning and was contemplating picking up this book that had all of Dickinson's work in it, but thought against the idea due to money, but just odd how that took place and then the poem you wrote. I just love how the poetic community, in one way or another, has this line of connectivity visible or not, yet just there, keeping it's members aligned however it can. You definitely did her supreme justice here, capturing the essence very nicely. Thanks

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  22. Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. I've been reading up on her lately and you've captured her well.

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  23. Okay I'm back and sentient. Joy, what you've done here is sharp and tender at the same time. Having, as you know, a strong affinity with Emily, and knowing the lay of her romantic heart and the landscape where she spent most of her life, this went straight to my heart. Not only that, but it is just beautifully written. I could quote the whole thing, but will make do with a few very special sections.

    The opening line, and the part about the doll ("big enough to be picked up and thrown down") is inspired writing about a woman who described herself as "nobody". (!!!)

    But it is the second stanza that literally brought tears to my eyes. Look...this word gets thrown around, but really, that middle stanza is amazing. Such a knowing portrait of a gifted woman growing older, and trying to deal with disappointments in things that were terrifically dear to her, and which she cannot ever really give up. She wouldn't have been Emily if she had. There is one line--"cindered brown the daisy years"--that I am blown away by, and I think Emily would have loved it, also, as enamored of natural images as she was. She would have admired how you wrapped a deeper meaning in leaves and blooms.

    Emily had the passion and the heart for love. She was made for it, I think. And so, to be so near the object of her adoration and desire, but never allowed by circumstance and the mores of the time to actually be with her, must have been exquisite, bittersweet torment indeed. But, in Susan's arms, would she have written all of those magnificent poems that she did, in her room across the way?

    I love this. Emily loves this. Be proud to have written it, Joy.

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    1. Thank you, Shay. I know Emily has a special place in your heart, and this comment means a lot to me.

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  24. That last stanza is simply incredible.

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  25. It was most moving and tragic to see disappointments enacted of someone gifted in her ways. Nicely done Joy!

    Hank

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  26. Lovely tribute ...beautifully written thank you for sharing x x

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  27. i read this without reading the stone, nor the quote, and i got the feel of Emily D, which got stronger and stronger, until the end, when there was a certainly of what this was about with the words used (such as buzz) and the style of the last two lines. very nice. :)

    events cocatenated

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  28. Beautifully lyrical and musical I love the play of opposites, the black and white.

    I don't know that Dickinson was afraid to love, as at least one commenter has suggested. I see her as much stronger than this. But I think we all agree that your poetry sings.

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    1. I agree Mark--I think she was rather fearless in many ways; in many of her poems she projects strong positivity and faith. That last line was about fate, not fear. In fact, if any sense of fear or weakness is in there, it was purely my clumsiness, and unintentional.

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  29. Wow...this gave me the chills, Joy. Somehow a part of me identifies with Emily, is a bit reclusive. The images have so much texture and the subtlety of emotion makes it all the more powerful.

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  30. Yes, yes. You have captured her, that elusive bold yet fragile spirit, bread baker, lace maker, beekeeper, aunt. Extraordinary poet. Thank you.

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  31. I never considered Emily Dickinson in this way, Hedge. Your images bring forth the woman she was, not the Belle of Amherst, but a real woman. Most write her as though she had been made of porcelain, so this was striking.

    The second stanza, especially nice, the shades of ecru, all those beige shades that go with a life lived small...

    Finally, your mention of "called back" that is on her tombstone, so nice, so real. Maybe I'll read some more of her work now. Thank you most of all for that! Peace, Amy

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  32. PS Your right column ROCKS. Peace... because it's better than we have now. AMEN, sister!! A

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  33. I didn't want to stop and write a comment - just wanted to keep the poem in my head as long as possible. But honesty decrees that I tell you how much I love it. Now I shall just have to re-read and re-read.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg