Skip to main content

Poetry Friday

I love Billy Collins. But it took Chelle referencing it in her Reading Meme to lead me to this gem. I read it for the first time two days ago. Left me breathless.

Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
by Billy Collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,

easily lifted off her shoulders and laid

on the back of a wooden chair.


And her bonnet,

the bow undone with a light forward pull.


Then the long white dress, a more

complicated matter with mother-of-pearl

buttons down the back,

so tiny and numerous that it takes forever

before my hands can part the fabric,

like a swimmer's dividing water,

and slip inside.


You will want to know

that she was standing

by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,

motionless, a little wide-eyed,

looking out at the orchard below,

the white dress puddled at her feet

on the wide-board, hardwood floor.


The complexity of women's undergarments

in nineteenth-century America

is not to be waved off,

and I proceeded like a polar explorer

through clips, clasps, and moorings,

catches, straps, and whalebone stays,

sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.


Later, I wrote in a notebook

it was like riding a swan into the night,

but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -

the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,

how her hair tumbled free of its pins,

how there were sudden dashes

whenever we spoke.


What I can tell you is

it was terribly quiet in Amherst

that Sabbath afternoon,

nothing but a carriage passing the house,

a fly buzzing in a windowpane.


So I could plainly hear her inhale

when I undid the very top

hook-and-eye fastener of her corset


and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,

the way some readers sigh when they realize

that Hope has feathers,

that reason is a plank,

that life is a loaded gun

that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

Comments

  1. Just wonderful! I need to read more poetry. It's something I was never really interested in but I feel the lack of nowadays.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, my lord. I'm completely breathless.

    ReplyDelete
  3. lol, you said breathless, too. I loved every second of it...but those last lines...

    *happy, happy sigh*

    ReplyDelete
  4. Meljean, I know! I just sat there staring at those last lines. Full of awe.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What beautiful prose -- I'm in awe!

    Love, love, LOVE it!!

    Dottie :)

    (new to your blog, picked this up from Meljean's blog)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Dottie! Glad you dropped in. He really is talented, isn't he?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow! Billy Collins does it again. Have never read a poem of his I didn't like. Thanks for posting this!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ah, yes. Now you see why it's one of my favorites. :) I found it years ago and was never quite the same. I'm glad you also enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jama, you are welcome. I really couldn't help myself after reading it.

    Chelle, thank you so much! Who knows how much longer I might have gone without reading this one? Too long, that's how long.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh my!
    Billy never disappoints!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey, Kelly! He does not. And it was so fun to find a new one.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Review | If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

It's been years since I picked up a Mhairi McFarlane novel, and I'm not really sure why that is. I liked It's Not Me, It's Youwell enough (it's obvious she's quite a witty writer), but something about the execution felt off and I think I let that keep me from diving deeper into her backlist. Then came an offer to review her upcoming title If I Never Met You, and something about this one seemed to call out to me. As though it was time. As though Laurie and Jamie might be the ones. Spoiler alert: It was and they were. It was the perfect read for a couple of dreary, grey January days. While not perhaps as bubbly as I've Got Your Number, I would definitely recommend it to readers who enjoyed that novel. They share a business setting, two individuals who are more than they know themselves to be, and a wonderfully slow burn romance. Readers who love Sarra Manning and Beth O'Leary's The Flatshareshould also take note.
Comedy was tragedy plus time, but the…

Bibliocrack Review | Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

There's really very little to say, isn't there? I hope you are well, wherever you are. I hope that your loved ones are. I hope that you're finding small ways to stay afloat, to remain connected to something, someone, someplace (real or fictional) that sustains you. Dark and difficult times, indeed. I've rather been holding on to this review. I felt so much, so quickly, so irrevocably for this book that it rapidly became hard to talk about to anyone who hadn't read it. And so I hope I can do it justice, just barely enough justice that, if you haven't, you'll run right out and do so. Now is the perfect time. I feel strongly that this book is what you need in your life at this moment. And so. You might want to prepare yourselves. I'm about to wax rhapsodic. But first, and introductory excerpt:
At the end of that session, Fay said, What if it's not what happened with this boy you regret, it's you? It's the you who you left behind. It's who …

Angie’s Best Books of the Decade

I am winded, you guys. Winded from laboring over this list. This is the first time I've attempted to cobble together a Best Books of the Decade list, and I can't say I'll be up to it for another ten years or so. But my, I couldn't resist the challenge (or profound pleasure, if we're being honest). I kept trying to winnow it down, kept forcing myself to be ruthless. Like somehow I could (or should) keep it to a top ten (flat impossible) or at least a top twenty-five (who are we kidding?). But after bidding those constraints good riddance, I really did press myself to take a hard, clear look at what hurts (to mangle my favorite Hemingway quote). Because these novels hurt in the best way. Each entry on this list is a five-star book in my books. Which means I wouldn't change a single thing about a single one of them. They are the ones I call perfect when I recommend them to friends and strangers. They are the ones I have read and reread over the past ten years and…