There are days, like today, when I don’t feel like following the prompt of Random Chance. But I have learned that resistance to Chance only leads to another poem that I’ll like even less. Also Emily isn’t here necessarily to make me happy. She’s here, or rather her poem is here, to irritate an opening. Step into the poem, breathe, and look for what lies there.
#625, c. 1862
‘Twas a long Parting — but the time
For Interview — had Come —
Before the Judgement Seat of God —
The last — and second time
These Fleshless Lovers met —
A Heaven in a Gaze —
A Heaven of Heavens — the Privilege
Of one another’s Eyes —
No Lifetime — on Them —
Appareled as the new
Unborn — except They had beheld —
Born infiniter — now —
Was Bridal — e’er like This?
A Paradise — the Host —
And Cherubim — and Seraphim —
The unobtrusive Guest —
Emily describes the sensation of meeting your soul mate. “A Heaven in a Gaze — / A Heaven of Heavens — the Privilege/ Of one another’s Eyes” That is the instantaneous click of recognition when you meet a person you have known all your life. By “life” Emily means the soul’s life in eternity, not this brief moment clothed in this flesh.
That phrase “fleshless lovers” sends chills down my spine. It’s macabre. And for her adventurous. The idea that two people “marry” each other before they are born, come into the world in human fleshy form. They may or may not find each other in this literal plane. Emily seems to think that won’t or need not happen. But that doesn’t matter because these two will be reunited and married again after death in Heaven with God and the angels in attendance. A marriage where everything is understood without explanation. There is no fear or insecurity. No earthly baggage. No garbage to take out. No dirty socks on the floor. No retreat, no infidelity, no avoidance, no quarrels. Perfect union of souls.
So, is this a lot of romantic clap-trap? I say, “yes.” Or it might as well be because there is no way for us to know if Emily has it right or if she’s just making this up. Her notion of the perfect union of souls after death strikes me as defensive. You get the feeling she is trying to clean up a mess that her heart finds itself wallowing. In the end, this poem seems like an artful dodge.
The final stanza strikes the one true chord to my ear. Here she describes the earthly wedding ceremony as a mock play, striving and failing to imitate the Heavenly marriage of the souls. That resonates with me. Weddings are performances, acting out an ideal, remote and unrealizable, although definitely intoxicating. After the wedding, the two people involved begin to learn how short they fall from that ideal. Some find a way to remain on the path together. It takes a great deal more than a romantic ideal. As long as lovers wear a coat of flesh, they will have to do a lot more with themselves than simply exist in that Heavenly Gaze.
Others succumb to the weight of failed expectations. We all know that story.
Emily speaks from her privileged bubble again. Dear girl, why bother with the world, when you have an imagination?
Great pelting rain last night. Cool gray heavy sky this morning. Full moon in Pisces coming up on Friday. I have spent the past few days cleaning junk out of my house. Old magazines and newspapers, all kinds of stuff that had to go. Finally I dug my wedding dress out of the back of the closet and brought it to a consignment shop. The woman who took it from me cooed like a dove over the fine lace. “You were a beautiful bride,” she said.
Sure, who isn’t? I thought. As I held up the dress for her inspection and admiration, I felt as though I was holding up someone else’s skin. What a relief to let that go. I feel lighter now and empty.