Visiting with Emily Dickinson in a D.C. Museum

From Claudia Emerson, a poem about visiting with Emily Dickinson in a Washington D.C. museum.

First Emerson describes a talk given about the reclusive Dickinson, and why that might be, and then:

EmilydickinsonOn display:
one of her beloved nephew Gilbert's
boyhood suits, velveteen, and beside it
the contents of his morning's pocket—a bullet's
spent casing, a wad of tangled string; drafts
of more famous poems bearing clearly
the needle-piercings where she sewed one
to another—the sutures of a fascicle's
finishing undone; what is thought to be
the only image ever made of her,
of which she disapproved, here, itself,
as yet without compare;
                                   and next to it,
the something rare, unexpected, lock
of her hair—the shape and circumference
reminiscent of a sparrow's nest, the color
she likened to a chestnut bur. She had brushed,
cut, coiled, and folded it into an envelope,
then sent it to someone, letter-like. Everyone
lines up to photograph it with their phones,
when what they must truly desire is to
touch it, as though they might feel the sheen
it retains. And while they can never
get close enough, they will never be any
closer than this to what it does not tell them,
and they are desperate for all that that might mean.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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