Scarlet Experiments

It’s what we do to birds, poems,
relationships – we cut them open – to expose
inner secrets and try to figure out
how it works or why it doesn’t.
In the end, we murder to dissect.

 

bird skull

Bird skull image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay


Emily Dickinson’s poem “Split the Lark” refers to the “scarlet experiment.” I had to look up that reference. It is a term applied to when scientists destroy a bird or any creature in order to learn more about it. As Emily says, you can’t find the music inside the bird.

“Split the Lark – and You’ll find the Music –
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled –
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear, when Lutes be old –
Loose the Flood – you shall find it patent –
Gush after Gush, reserved for you –
Scarlet Experiment! Skeptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?”
(Dickinson 391)

I read about this in Scarlet Experiment: Birds and Humans in America which also looks at how some writers, including Emily, use birds in their literature.

“We murder to dissect” comes from a poem by William Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned”

“Sweet is the lore which nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Misshapes the beauteous forms of things;
—We murder to dissect.”

Both poems consider how we analyze to the point of destroying things in nature. In my poem, I consider how we also do it with relationships.

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