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It was not death, for I stood up -- Emily Dickinson

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1649) It was not death, for I stood up
 It was not death, for I stood up,
 And all the dead lie down;
 It was not night, for all the bells
 Put out their tongues, for noon.

 It was not frost, for on my flesh
 I felt siroccos crawl, -
 Nor fire, for just my marble feet
 Could keep a chancel cool.

 And yet it tasted like them all;
 The figures I have seen
 Set orderly, for burial,
 Reminded me of mine,

 As if my life were shaven
 And fitted to a frame,
 And could not breathe without a key;
 And 'twas like midnight, some,

 When everything that ticked has stopped,
 And space stares, all around,
 Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns
 Repeal the beating ground.

 But most like chaos - stopless, cool, -
 Without a chance or spar,
 Or even a report of land
 To justify despair.
-- Emily Dickinson
There are some poems you cannot escape. Poems that are like locked, bare
rooms filled with a light so cold it can only be the truth. Poems that
capture not only the horror of desolation, but also its stark, simple

This is one of those poems.

This is a poem that grabs you by the throat right at the start (can you
imagine an opening more immediate, more engaging that "It was not death for
I stood up / And all the dead lie down?") and gradually increases in
pressure until it finally lets you go, gasping for breath, only at the very
end. This is a poem that combines some of the sharpest, most suffocating
lines in the language ("As if my life were shaven / And fitted to a frame")
with a sense of quiet acceptance that both informs the first two stanzas and
radiates through those hearbreaking last lines. This is a poem that is at
once a mosaic of images and a single, singing voice.

It is also, of course, vintage Dickinson. The short, haiku-like lines are
back, with their awkward rhymes that somehow manage to sound exactly right.
There's the usual sense of precision, the feeling that every word has been
carefully selected and carries within it a great weight of meaning. And
there's that deeply personal tone which makes what would otherwise be an
exceedingly cruel poem, a moving and sad one.


37 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Anonymous said...

i agree, and i'm doing this for a school assignment and it's cool to see people actually interested in this and appreciating it

Henry said...

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