“Emily Dickinson’s Defunct” (Marilyn Nelson)

July 28, 2008

She used to
pack poems
in her hip pocket.
Under all the
gray old lady
clothes she was
dressed for action.
She had hair,
imagine,
in certain places, and
believe me
she smelled human
on a hot summer day.
Stalking snakes
or counting
the thousand notes
in sunlight
she walked just
like an Indian.
She was New England’s
favorite daughter,
she could pray
like the devil.
She was a
two-fisted woman,
this babe.
All the flies
just stood around
and buzzed
when she died.

* * *
I like this brief tribute to Emily Dickinson (how could one possibly write a long-winded one!) very much, especially its ending, which I think she would have appreciated. I have a quote on my white board at the Adult Probation GED Program classroom, which my friend Matt reminded me of just last week. It’s from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “I do not box as one beating the air.” After reading Nelson’s poem again this afternoon, I looked up and saw that quote and thought, neither did two-fisted Emily.

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One Response to ““Emily Dickinson’s Defunct” (Marilyn Nelson)”

  1. I like this. I found I did not hesitate in gulping it in one fell swoop.

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