Aunt Emily

Aunt Emily

Imagining Emily Dickinson in 1852


 She’s thinking of song—

dividing the day into eight

juicy bits,


into sixty little books

of six folded sheets,

“always in ink,”


the worm of oblivion

tucked neatly into one

gnawed corner—


polishing some lapidary

idea of a frayed eternity.


Her hair is red

feathers—a robin’s

breast (wary little bird

binding us to her

paint.) Her


wandering pupil stares

sideways to infinity;

it is morning where she is—


the sun passing

like a swollen eye

across the crowded



Sewing Box


Half-hidden, her thimble,

     little dimpled well.

                 What residue

                 of her salt

     does it contain?


(The chary bird in me

       loves to sip from it.)

                  Measuring tape, scissors…

                  Enough equipment here

     for the tedious Fates.


Yes, here is her favorite

       pincushion, the sharps

                     and darners stuck in it

                     like small, heroic



Sacred Love


The trees practice it

all winter—the honey


locusts, with their spiritual

thorns, their dry pods


of sweetness,

the death pale birches


like bony priestesses

and the deflowered flower


girl plums, naked

and wind-thrashed,


in bruise colors.

But, what ascetic hermit


can resist disporting

when April unbosoms!


one of Vermeer’s women,

dressed up in such lush


tapestries, lavish embroideries,

brazen perfumes—


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