A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

August 15, 2015

emily-dickinsonIt is true that our lives and days come to us in many different colors: red, yellow, green, blue… But for me, reading Emily Dickinson is always like going back to black. I especially pick up this book from my library’s shelf when I feel chaotic and sort of down and somber. Reading her poems ever-so-quietly and slowly, line-by-line, allows the words and their meanings to embrace me and completely calm me down. She is, to me, like a friend who is pouring her heart out and confiding in me her deepest secrets, and in return, she allows me to do the same. I can imagine myself to be exactly like her – an 18th century woman, far away from the fast-paced technology that contaminates our everyday life, being able to again have the patience to look at the all the little details around me, like a bird flying from a tree, a leaf falling on the ground.

Emily Dickinson is singularly my favorite female poet ever. Here is a poem I wrote for her.

Emily Dickinson
Of all the women in the world and all the places in the world,
I saw Emily Dickinson today in the locker-room of my gym!
At first I could not believe it—

I was not even sure if she was dead or alive.
Her skin was pale her lips were thin
And she had some of the largest hips I had ever seen.

Having a white towel wrapped around her,
Standing on the scale,
Probably thinking of her new diet.

Passing by me in a hurry she stepped on my toe.
She did not even notice.
She did not even look at me,
She did not even apologize!

I said “Ouch!” and made a frown
And murmured behind her,
“You mad, clumsy, big-hipped
18th century poet!”

– Mavash Mossaed

A few poems by Emily Dickinson:

Hope’ Is The Thing With Feathers

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.


How Far Is It To Heaven?

How far is it to Heaven?
As far as Death this way—
Of River or of Ridge beyond
Was no discovery.

How far is it to Hell?
As far as Death this way—
How far left hand the Sepulchre
Defies Topography.


A Bird Came Down

He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad,-
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, splashless, as they swim.
She Died At Play

She died at play,
Gambolled away
Her lease of spotted hours,
Then sank as gaily as a Turn
Upon a Couch of flowers.

Her ghost strolled softly o’er the hill
Yesterday, and Today,
Her vestments as the silver fleece—
Her countenance as spray.


How Lonesome The Wind Must Feel Nights

How lonesome the Wind must feel Nights –
When people have put out the Lights
And everything that has an Inn
Closes the shutter and goes in –

How pompous the Wind must feel Noons
Stepping to incorporeal Tunes
Correcting errors of the sky
And clarifying scenery

How mighty the Wind must feel Morns
Encamping on a thousand dawns
Espousing each and spurning all
Then soaring to his Temple Tall –


Longing is like the Seed

Longing is like the Seed
That wrestles in the Ground,
Believing if it intercede
It shall at length be found.

The Hour, and the Clime –
Each Circumstance unknown,
What Constancy must be achieved
Before it see the Sun!
She Dealt Her Pretty Words Like Blades

She dealt her pretty words like Blades—
How glittering they shone—
And every One unbared a Nerve
Or wantoned with a Bone—

She never deemed—she hurt—
That—is not Steel’s Affair—
A vulgar grimace in the Flesh—
How ill the Creatures bear—

To Ache is human—not polite—
The Film upon the eye
Mortality’s old Custom—
Just locking up—to Die.


September’s Baccalaureate

September’s Baccalaureate
A combination is
Of Crickets – Crows – and Retrospects
And a dissembling Breeze

That hints without assuming –
An Innuendo sear
That makes the Heart put up its Fun
And turn Philosopher.
She could not live upon the Past

She could not live upon the Past
The Present did not know her
And so she sought this sweet at last
And nature gently owned her
The mother that has not a knell
for either Duke or Robin


About Emily dickinson
Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst at the Homestead on December 10, 1830. Her quiet life was infused with a creative energy that produced almost 1800 poems and a profusion of vibrant letters.

Her lively Childhood and Youth were filled with schooling, reading, explorations of nature, religious activities, significant friendships, and several key encounters with poetry. Her most intense Writing Years consumed the decade of her late 20s and early 30s; during that time she composed almost 1100 poems. She made few attempts to publish her work, choosing instead to share them privately with family and friends. In her Later YearsDickinson increasingly withdrew from public life. Her garden, her family (especially her brother’s family at The Evergreens) and close friends, and health concerns occupied her.

With a few exceptions, her poetry remained virtually unpublished until after she died on May 15, 1886. After her death, her poems and life story were brought to the attention of the wider world through the competing efforts of family members and intimates. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org

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