Letter For Emily Dickinson

2into fresh patterns, pierced in place with pins,
3ready to hold them down with my own thread,
4they change and twist sometimes, their color spins
6lends them from language that will never be
7free of you after all. My sampler reads,
9It calls, "she left this trace, and now we start" --
10in stitched directions that follow the leads
11I take from you, as you take me apart.
12You wrote some of your lines while baking bread,
13propping a sheet of paper by the bins
14of salt and flour, so if your kneading led
15to words, you'd tether them as if in thin
16black loops on paper. When they sang to be free,
17you captured those quick birds relentlessly
18and kept a slow, sure mercy in your deeds,
19leaving them room to peck and hunt their seeds
20in the white cages your vast iron art
21had made by moving books, and lives, and creeds.
22I take from you as you take me apart.

Notes

1] Emily Dickinson: New England poet (1830-86). Back to Line
5] Cf. Dickinson's poem "Cobwebs" (1896):
The spider as an artist
Has never been employed
Though his surpassing merit
Is freely certified

By every broom and Bridget
Throughout a Christian land.
Neglected son of genius,
I take thee by the hand.

Back to Line
8] "called back": Lavinia Dickinson inscribed this on Emily's gravestone in the West Cemetery, Triangle Street, Amherst. It is the title of a poem published in her 1896 collection of poems:
Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!

Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!

Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.
Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal, --
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.

screeds: fragments, pieces. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Calendars (Dorset, Vermont: Tupelo Press, 2003): 6. Cornell University Library OLIN PS 3556
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Special Copyright: 

<b>This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Annie Finch or Tupelo Press permissions department.</b>