Sorry so absent from the page. But I actually had work to do. I know. Incredible. My plan is to continue through the Winter Solstice, break for the holidays, and then reorganize my purpose for this writing in the New Year.
Meanwhile I want to continue what Emily began in the last post. This time, not so Saints focused (although the bless you boys are ever in the periphery of my thoughts these days . . . )
#677, c. 1863
To be alive — is Power —
Existence — in itself —
Without a further function —
Omnipotence — Enough —
To be alive — and Will!
‘Tis able as a God —
The Maker — of Ourselves — be what —
Such being Finitude!
This makes me think of how much of ourselves functions without our conscious effort. The aging process, or the process by which bad cells are disposed by our immune system. Or the way our liver and kidney filter out the harmful garbage from our bodies. Or the way that our lungs move oxygen from the air into our bloodstream. That alone is miraculous. The transubstantiation of the flesh. To move certain properties from a gas into liquid so that our brains can perform the ten million lightning quick tasks that are required for me to get the cup of coffee from the kitchen to the table and then to my lips.
Who needs church when I can sit in my own living room and make myself aware of the vast constellation of miracles that are happening right now inside my skin, as I move this pen across the page. Look at that! Symbols with meaning!
What I like about Emily’s poem—once again—is her bold heresy when she writes “a God”. The insertion of that mild-mannered indefinite article before God makes that statement heretical in her context. It also occurs to me that she probably didn’t have many people to share her ideas about the solitary human as the equivalent of a God. Most of her community probably were afraid of what she was thinking, I imagine. And did that make her unwilling to speak any of it out loud? Or simply unwilling to allow any of it to be published? She must have known that none or few of her contemporaries were ready to hear any of this. Maybe Emerson could get away with it because he wore pants. But I’ll bet no one was ready to see or hear an iconoclast in white lace.
(Furthermore, I’m sure no one had the courage to admit to the intellectual failure that left them incapable of separating a person’s words from the contents of her underclothes.)
I imagine that she kept the work to herself to protect the poems themselves. Not because these were so frail. But because they would have so frightened contemporary readers. More to the point, she was protecting everyone else from what her poems might have done. Cracked them wide open. Why start trouble if you don’t have to? That was Emily’s way.
Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He is 78 years old. When I called to wish him a happy birthday, he told me he had just come home from a poetry reading. Retired surgeon. Hyper-rationalist. Go figure. When I was in school, my father told me, “Pigs and poets are best appreciated after they’re dead.” Thirty years and one major stroke later, his brain is half gone, but he’s a big poetry guy now. His friend, a fellow retired doctor, wrote a poem about my dad, actually. They have a poetry club together, reading, writing, talking. Another miraculous transformation.