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    Dickinson Poems

    Emily Dickinson


    One Sister have I in our house,

    And one, a hedge away.

    There's only one recorded,

    But both belong to me.

    One came the road that I came—

    And wore my last year's gown—

    The other, as a bird her nest,

    Builded our hearts among.

    She did not sing as we did—

    It was a different tune—

    Herself to her a music

    As Bumble bee of June.

    Today is far from Childhood—

    But up and down the hills

    I held her hand the tighter—

    Which shortened all the miles—

    And still her hum

    The years among,

    Deceives the Butterfly;

    Still in her Eye

    The Violets lie

    Mouldered this many May.

    I spilt the dew—

    But took the morn—

    I chose this single star

    From out the wide night's numbers—



    Success is counted sweetest

    By those who ne'er succeed.

    To comprehend a nectar

    Requires sorest need.

    Not one of all the purple Host

    Who took the Flag today

    Can tell the definition

    So clear of Victory

    As he defeated—dying—

    On whose forbidden ear

    The distant strains of triumph

    Burst agonized and clear!


    Her breast is fit for pearls,

    But I was not a "Diver"—

    Her brow is fit for thrones

    But I have not a crest.

    Her heart is fit for home

    I—a Sparrow—build there

    Sweet of twigs and twine

    My perennial nest.


    Come slowly—Eden!

    Lips unused to Thee—

    Bashful—sip thy Jessamines—

    As the fainting Bee—

    Reaching late his flower,

    Round her chamber hums—

    Counts his nectars—

    Enters—and is lost in Balms.


    Did the Harebell loose her girdle

    To the lover Bee

    Would the Bee the Harebell hallow

    Much as formerly?

    Did the "Paradise"—persuaded—

    Yield her moat of pearl—

    Would the Eden be an Eden,

    Or the Earl—an Earl?


    A taste a liquor never brewed—

    From Tankards scooped in Pearl—

    Not all the Vats on the Rhine

    Yield such an Alcohol!

    Inebriate of Air—am I—

    And Debauchee of Dew—

    Reeling—thro endless summer days—

    From inns of Molten Blue—

    When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee

    Out the Foxglove's door—

    When Butterflies—renounce their "drams"—

    I shall but drink the more!

    Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats—

    And Saints—to windows run—

    To see the little Tippler

    Leaning against the—Sun—


    Wild Nights—Wild Nights!

    Were I with thee

    Wild nights should be

    Our luxury!

    Futile—the Winds—

    To a heart in port—

    Done with the Compass—

    Done with the Chart!

    Rowing in Eden—

    Ah, the Sea!

    Might I but moor—Tonight—

    In Thee!


    You see I cannot see—your lifetime—

    I must guess—

    How many times it ache for me—today—Confess—

    How many times for my far sake

    The brave eyes film—

    But I guess guessing hurts—

    Mine—get so dim!

    Too vague—the face—

    My own—so patient—covers—

    Too far—the strength—

    My timidness enfolds—

    Haunting the Heart—

    Like her translated faces—

    Teasing the want—

    It—only—can suffice!


    A solemn thing—it was—I said—

    A woman—white—to be—

    And wear—if God should count me fit—

    Her blameless mystery—

    A hallowed thing—to drop a life

    Into the purple well—

    Too plummetless—that it return—


    I pondered how the bliss would look—

    And would it feel as big—

    When I could take it in my hand—

    As hovering—seen—through fog—

    And then—the size of this "small" life—

    The Sages—call it small—

    Swelled—like Horizons—in my vest—

    And I sneered—softly—"small"!


    I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

    And Mourners to and fro

    Kept treading—treading—till it seemed

    That Sense was breaking through—

    And when they all were seated,

    A Service, like a Drum—

    Kept beating—beating—till I thought

    My Mind was going numb

    And then I heard them lift a Box

    And creak across my Soul

    With those same Boots of Lead, again,

    Then Space—began to toll,

    As all the Heavens were a Bell,

    And Being, but an Ear,

    And I, and Silence, some strange Race

    Wrecked, solitary, here—

    And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

    And I dropped down, and down—

    And hit a World, at every plunge,

    And Finished knowing—then—


    I'm Nobody! Who are you?

    Are you—Nobody—Too?

    Then there's a pair of us!

    Don't tell! they'd advertise—you know!

    How dreary—to be—Somebody!

    How public—like a Frog—

    To tell one's name—the livelong June—

    To an admiring Bog!


    The Soul selects her own Society—

    Then—shuts the Door—

    To her divine Majority—

    Present no more—

    Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing—

    At her low Gate—

    Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling

    Upon her Mat—

    I've known her—from an ample nation—

    Choose One—

    Then—close the Valves of her attention—

    Like Stone—


    He fumbles at your Soul

    As Players at the Keys

    Before they drop full Music on—

    He stuns you by degrees—

    Prepares your brittle Nature

    For the Ethereal Blow

    By fainter Hammers—further heard—

    Then nearer—Then so slow

    Your Breath has time to straighten—

    Your Brain—to bubble Cool—


    That scalps your naked Soul—

    When Winds take Forests in their Paws—

    The Universe—is still—


    Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—

    I keep it, staying at Home—

    With a Bobolink for a Chorister—

    And an Orchard, for a Dome—

    Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice—

    I just wear my Wings—

    And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,

    Our little Sexton—sings.

    God preaches, a noted Clergyman—

    And the sermon is never long,

    So instead of getting to Heaven, at last—

    I'm going, all along.


    I cannot dance upon my Toes—

    No Man instructed me—

    But oftentimes, among my mind,

    A Glee possesseth me,

    That had I Ballet knowledge—

    Would put itself abroad

    In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—

    Or lay a Prima, mad,

    And though I had no Gown of Gauze—

    No Ringlet, to my Hair,

    Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,

    One Claw upon the Air,

    Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,

    Nor rolled on wheels of snow

    Till I was out of sight, in sound,

    The House encore me so—

    Nor any know I know the Art

    I mention—easy—Here—

    Nor any Placard boast me—

    It's full as Opera—


    After great pain, a formal feeling comes—

    The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—

    The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,

    And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

    The Feet, mechanical, go round—

    Or Ground, or Air, or Ought—

    A Wooden way

    Regardless grown,

    A Quartz contentment, like a stone—

    This is the Hour of Lead—

    Remembered, if outlived,

    As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—

    First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—


    This is my letter to the World

    That never wrote to Me—

    The simple News that Nature told—

    With tender Majesty

    Her Message is committed

    To Hands I cannot see—

    For love of Her—Sweet—countrymen—

    Judge tenderly—of Me.


    This was a Poet—It is That

    Distills amazing sense

    From ordinary Meanings—

    And Attar so immense

    From the familiar species

    That perished by the Door—

    We wonder it was not Ourselves—

    Arrested it—before—

    Of Pictures, the Discloser—

    The Poet—it is He—

    Entitles Us—by Contrast—

    To ceaseless Poverty—

    Of Portion—so unconscious—

    The Robbing—could not harm—

    Himself—to Him—a Fortune—

    Exterior—to Time—


    'Tis little I—could care for Pearls—

    Who own the ample sea—

    Or Brooches—when the Emperor—

    With Rubies—pelteth me—

    Or Gold—who am the Prince of Mines—

    Or Diamonds—when have I

    A Diadem to fit a Dome—

    Continual upon me—


    They put Us far apart—

    As separate as Sea

    And Her unsown Peninsula—

    We signified "These see"—

    They took away our Eyes—

    They thwarted Us with Guns—

    "I see Thee" each responded straight

    Through Telegraphic Signs—

    With Dungeons—They devised—

    But through their thickest skill—

    And their opaquest Adamant—

    Our Souls saw—just as well—

    They summoned Us to die—

    With sweet alacrity

    We stood upon our stapled feet—

    Condemned—but just—to see—

    Permission to recant—

    Permission to forget—

    We turned our backs upon the Sun

    For perjury of that—

    Not Either—noticed Death—

    Of Paradise—aware—

    Each other's Face—was all the Disc

    Each other's setting—saw—


    She dealt her pretty words like Blades—

    How glittering they shone—

    And every One unbared a Nerve

    Or wantoned with a Bone—

    She never deemed—she hurt—

    That—is not Steel's Affair—

    A vulgar grimace in the Flesh—

    How ill the Creatures bear—

    To Ache is human—not polite—

    The Film upon the eye

    Mortality's old Custom—

    Just locking up—to Die.


    I was the slightest in the House—

    I took the smallest Room—

    At night, my little Lamp, and Book—

    And one Geranium—

    So stationed I could catch the Mint

    That never ceased to fall—

    And just my Basket—

    Let me think—I'm sure

    That this was all—

    I never spoke—unless addressed—

    And then, 'twas brief and low—

    I could not bear to live—aloud—

    The Racket shamed me so—

    And if it had not been so far—

    And any one I knew

    Were going—I had often thought

    How noteless—I could die—


    The Heart asks Pleasure—first—

    And then—Excuse from Pain—

    And then—those little Adonynes

    That deaden suffering—

    And then—to go to sleep—

    And then—if it should be

    The will of its Inquisitor

    The privilege to die—


    A still—Volcano—Life—

    That flickered in the night—

    When it was dark enough to do

    Without erasing sight—

    A quiet—Earthquake Style—

    Too subtle to suspect

    By natures this side Naples—

    The North cannot detect

    The Solemn—Torrid—Symbol—

    The lips that never lie—

    Whose hissing Corals part—and shut—

    And Cities—ooze away—


    They shut me up in Prose—

    As when a little Girl

    They put me in the Closet—

    Because they liked me "still"—

    Still! Could themselves have peeped—

    And seen my Brain—go round—

    They might as wise have lodged a Bird

    For Treason—in the Pound—

    Himself has but to will

    And easy as a Star

    Abolish his Captivity—

    And laugh—No more have I—


    A Prison gets to be a friend—

    Between its Ponderous face

    And Ours—a Kinsmanship express—

    And in its narrow Eyes—

    We come to look with gratitude

    For the appointed Beam

    It deal us—stated as our food—

    And hungered for—the same—

    We learn to know the Planks—

    That answer to Our feet—

    So miserable a sound—at first—

    Nor ever now—so sweet—

    As plashing in the Pools—

    When Memory was a Boy—

    But a Demurer Circuit—

    A Geometric Joy—

    The Posture of the Key

    That interrupt the Day

    To Our Endeavor—Not so real

    The Cheek of Liberty—

    As this Phantasm Steel—

    Whose features—Day and Night—

    Are present to us—as Our Own—

    And as escapeless—quite—

    The narrow Round—the Stint—

    The slow exchange of Hope—

    For something passiver—Content

    Too steep for looking up—

    The Liberty we knew

    Avoided—Like a Dream—

    Too wide for any Night but Heaven—

    If That—indeed—redeem—


    Each Life Converges to some Centre—

    Expressed—or still—

    Exists in every Human Nature

    A Goal—

    Embodied scarcely to itself—it may be—

    Too fair

    For Credibility's presumption

    To mar—

    Adored with caution—as a Brittle Heaven—

    To reach

    Were hopeless, as the Rainbow's Raiment

    To touch—

    Yet persevered toward—sure—for the Distance—

    How high—

    Unto the Saints' slow diligence—

    The Sky—

    Ungained—it may be—by a Life's low Venture—

    But then—

    Eternity enable the endeavoring



    She rose to His Requirement—dropt

    The Playthings of Her Life

    To take the honorable Work

    Of Woman, and of Wife—

    If ought She missed in Her new Day,

    Of Amplitude, or Awe—

    Or first Prospective—Or the Gold

    In using, wear away,

    It lay unmentioned—as the Sea

    Develop Pearl, and Weed,

    But only to Himself—be known

    The Fathoms they abide—


    My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—

    In Corners—till a Day

    The Owner passed—identified—

    And carried Me away—

    And now We roam in Sovereign Woods—

    And now We hunt the Doe—

    And every time I speak for Him—

    The Mountains straight reply—

    And do I smile, such cordial light

    Upon the Valley glow—

    It is as a Vesuvian face

    Had let its pleasure through—

    And when at Night—Our good Day done—

    I guard My Master's Head—

    'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's

    Deep Pillow—to have shared—

    To foe of His—I'm deadly foe—

    None stir the second time—

    On whom I lay a Yellow Eye—

    Or an emphatic Thumb—

    Though I than He—may no longer live

    He longer must—than I—

    For I have but the power to kill,

    Without—the power to die—


    Ample make this Bed—

    Make this Bed with Awe—

    In it wait till Judgment break

    Excellent and Fair.

    Be its Mattress straight—

    Be its Pillow round—

    Let no Sunrise' yellow noise

    Interrupt this Ground—


    A narrow Fellow in the Grass

    Occasionally rides—

    You may have met Him—did you not

    His notice sudden is—

    The Grass divides as with a Comb—

    A spotted shaft is seen—

    And then it closes at your feet

    And opens further on—

    He likes a Boggy Acre

    A Floor too cool for Corn—

    Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—

    I more than once at Noon

    Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash

    Unbraiding in the Sun

    When stooping to secure it

    It wrinkled, and was gone—

    Several of Nature's People

    I know, and they know me—

    I feel for them a transport

    Of cordiality—

    But never met this Fellow

    Attended, or alone

    Without a tighter breathing

    And Zero at the Bone—


    My Heart upon a little Plate

    Her Palate to delight

    A Berry or a Bun, would be,

    Might it an Apricot!


    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—

    Success in Circuit lies

    Too bright for our infirm Delight

    The Truth's superb surprise

    As Lightning to the Children eased

    With explanation kind

    The Truth must dazzle gradually

    Or every man be blind—


    Volcanoes be in Sicily

    And South America

    I judge from my Geography—

    Volcanos nearer here

    A Lava step at any time

    Am I inclined to climb—

    A Crater I may contemplate

    Vesuvius at home.


    Rearrange a "Wife's" affection!

    When they dislocate my Brain!

    Amputate my freckled Bosom!

    Make me bearded like a man!

    Blush, my spirit, in thy Fastness—

    Blush, my unacknowledged clay—

    Seven years of troth have taught thee

    More than Wifehood ever may!

    Love that never leaped its socket—

    Trust entrenched in narrow pain—

    Constancy thro fire—awarded—

    Anguish—bare of anodyne!

    Burden—borne so far triumphant—

    None suspect me of the crown,

    For I wear the "Thorns" till Sunset

    Then—my Diadem put on.

    Big my Secret but it's bandaged

    It will never get away

    Till the Day it's Weary Keeper

    Leads it through the Grave to thee.

    These poems are only part of a collection of many published by the EServer, a nonprofit collective.