I selected this one from the book days ago and had to come back several times before I found a sliver of light, showing me the way in. Emily sorts through the villagers within her and finds one that needs her attention.
I tried to think a lonelier Thing
Than any I had seen —
Some Polar Expiation — An Omen in the Bone
Of Death’s tremendous nearness —
I probed Retrieveless things
My Duplicate — to borrow —
A Haggard Comfort springs
From the belief that Somewhere—
Within the Clutch of Thought —
There dwells one other Creature
Of Heavenly Love — forgot —
I plucked at our Partition
As One should pry the Walls —
Between Himself — and Horror’s Twin —
Within Opposing Cells —
I almost strove to clasp his Hand,
Such Luxury — it grew —
That as Myself — could pity Him —
Perhaps he — pitied me —
The first thing that I notice is that Emily inserted a three-line stanza among the four-line stanzas. Why? Because she can. It’s her poem, and she can do what she wants. Maybe she threw a glitch into her poem, disrupting the flow and our expectations, so we would pay attention. Not fall back to sleep.
So what’s the story here? She describes a willing descent or opening to that “Omen in the Bone”, the end encoded in our DNA, coming for us whether we acknowledge it or not. There is an effort to bring back the past, either to fix it or re-experience it. Memory gives only partial relief or “Haggard Comfort”.
Emily cannot shake the sense that somewhere she has overlooked something important. That her structure of thinking has exiled a part of her that yearns for return, to be enfolded back into the family of her Self. This is her twin. The part of her that she loathes. The weak, vulnerable, death-focused twin. Her brother. The part that gives up and gives over to that downward slide.
She looks across the line that separates them and looks as into a mirror. Compassionate Emily seeks to embrace (or almost seeks) her own despairing aspect of self. She considers herself the benevolent comforter, the larger, the stronger.
In the end, honesty compels her to recognize that they are equals, balanced on either side of a dividing line. Neither is superior to the other. She may accept his pity as he may accept hers. For Emily to consider that her vile twin may pity her is to give some integrity to what he represents, or rather to the knowledge that he holds. That is the awareness of Death, that Omen in the Bone.
The Death-force and the Life-force are twins, partners. Life doesn’t triumph over Death, or the other way around either. It’s not a contest that either can win. They are twin brother and sister. Compatible. They may abhor each other and turn away in horror. Refuse to love or accept each other. But they are born from the same egg. That will never change.
Brave Emily wants to clasp his hand. She softens toward her twin. She can’t turn anyone away from the shelter of her being. It would be dishonest in the end. And folly to presume that she may pity one whose power and integrity is equal to hers. That is the shocking twist at the end.
She sees herself from his point of view. Emily’s unfiltered sight turns on herself. Her relentless, unvarnished curiosity to see a thing from all sides forces her to consider that there is a reality on the other side of the line that separates life and death. A reality that she fears and so demonizes. (As we all do.) But she’s too tough to let that stand. Her mind, in partnership with instinct and spirit, refuses complacency. Emily must look to her dark twin.