The Thing with Feathers Flies Away

The bird who recently built its nest
in the drainpipe is either very optimistic –
or foolish. I feel that hopeful optimism
is foolish in these darkly troubling times.
Maybe the thing with feathers is optimism.

bird in pipe

The title and final line here is a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem in which the thing with feathers is hope in the form of a bird who seems unabashed by any troubles around it.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church

but you spend this Sunday      with me,
on the spring garden bench      reading poems
from your small hand-sewn fascicles,      never published,
but for here and now,      where God
preaches     –    and the sermon is never long.

reading garden

This poem recalls – and borrows lines – from Emily Dickinson, whose poems I was reading this morning.

Emily Dickinson,
poet of the interior life,
poems were written quietly in a room of her own,
often hand-stitched in small volumes,
then hidden in a drawer.
She died without fame,
only a few poems were published in her lifetime, and those anonymously.
All of the poems were later published
at first altered by editors or publishers according to the fashion of the day,
rather than in the unique style that Emily intended for them.

The volume I was reading is The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition which has 1,789 poems with Dickinson’s spelling, punctuation, and capitalization intact.

Black Velvet

a black velvet petunia


Her neck rises from the white lace
necklaced with a black velvet band soft
as her pink and purple garden petunias.
Syllables of velvet from a tender perennial.
Flowers blackened by Death still blooming annually.


Emily created as a young girl (before the poetry) a herbarium in which she collected 424 flowers from the Amherst region. She called them “beautiful children of spring,” and arranged them in a 66-page large leather-bound album with labels of the common names and sometimes the official Linnaean ones. All are in her elegant handwriting. I don’ think she had a black petunia in the book, but I think she would have liked the flower.

Emily’s portrait with her black velvet band

A poem by Emily – #334

All the letters I can write
Are not fair as this—
Syllables of Velvet—
Sentences of Plush,
Depths of Ruby, undrained,
Hid, Lip, for Thee—
Play it were a Humming Bird—
And just sipped—me—

Gorgeous Nothings

Poems on used envelopes. New England frugality.

Never meant for someone. Meant for everyone.

Answering mail with verse. And remaining silent.

Crossings-out, dashes, spaces, columns, and overlapping planes.

One poem for each of fifty-two weeks.


poem

These two books present the later writings of Emily Dickinson – the 52 envelope poems. Click images for Amazon links.

envelope poem

You can also view a digital collection of these envelope poems on the Amherst College website at https://acdc.amherst.edu/browse/collection/ed

Hope Is the Thing With Buds

It is fine that Emily Dickinson believed
that hope is the thing with feathers.

I choose the broken branches that fell
during the winter ice storm in January

and whose buds opened one April afternoon.

IMG_2487

I was a bit surprised in looking through the poems on this site that I have written a number of poems about hope in some way. I suppose that is a good thing – though not all the poems are “hopeful.”
“Hope is the thing with feathers” is the poem by Emily Dickinson that inspired my poem today.

Might I but moor – Tonight – With Thee

Fast and flimsy sex and still not
able to sleep, but she has fallen –

under the covers to the other world.

I move down the cold, dark passage
where every move I make echoes twice.

legs

I was reading about Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who prepared the first edition of Emily Dickinson’s poems in 1890. He wrote to his co-editor: “One poem only I dread a little to print – that wonder ‘Wild Nights,’ – lest the malignant read into it more than that virgin recluse ever dreamed of putting there. . . . Yet what a loss to omit it! Indeed it is not to be omitted.”

That comment made me look at the poem again and think about Emily – that virgin recluse – fantasizing in her room one night when she couldn’t sleep.

Emily’s poem:

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 – With Thee!

Emily Dickinson