Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1436) I Cannot Live with You
I cannot live with you, It would be life, And life is over there Behind the shelf The sexton keeps the key to, Putting up Our life, his porcelain, Like a cup Discarded of the housewife, Quaint or broken; A newer Sevres pleases, Old ones crack. I could not die with you, For one must wait To shut the other's gaze down,-- You could not. And I, could I stand by And see you freeze, Without my right of frost, Death's privilege? Nor could I rise with you, Because your face Would put out Jesus'. That new grace Glow plain and foreign On my homesick eye, Except that you, than he Shone closer by. They'd judge us--how? For you served Heaven, you know Or sought to; I could not, Because you saturated sight, And I had no more eyes For sordid excellence As Paradise. And were you lost, I would be, Though my name Rang loudest On the heavenly fame. And were you saved, And I condemned to be Where you were not, That self were hell to me. So we must keep apart, You there, I here, With just the door ajar That oceans are, And prayer, And that pale sustenance, Despair!
It's difficult to have a "favourite" Emily Dickinson poem, because every one of her poems is radiant with intensity, so that reading her collected works (as i've been doing this week) is like watching a beautiful crystal shatter into a million exquisite pieces, each shining brilliant in the sunlight. If I had to pick a favourite though, it would be this one - not because it's the most accomplished of her work, but because somehow it's always seemed to me the most desperate, and therefore the most heartfelt. This is the most despairing a love poem has ever been, even a Dickinson love poem. I love the matter of factness of the first stanza, the spine chilling casualness of "Old ones crack". Strangely, it's a starting that always drives me taut with rage, with indignation, like I want to break open every locked shelf and smash all the china in the world. And I love the way Dickinson goes on to throw away line after memorable line ("My right of frost / Death's privilege" or "Only the door ajar / that oceans are"). But if this is an overwhelmingly sad poem, it is also an incredible love poem. Dickinson surrenders to everything, accepts every part of the hopeless truth, every aching mile of her seperation, but never lets her love waver. Hers is a sinewy and courageous passion, one that I cannot help be moved by. And because of it, this is a great poem. Aseem