Provocative Poem Permeates Personal Ponderations

I cannot live with You – 
It would be Life – 
And Life is over there – 
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to – 
Putting up
Our Life – His Porcelain – 
Like a Cup – 

Discarded of the Housewife – 
Quaint – or Broke – 
A newer Sevres pleases – 
Old Ones crack – 

I could not die – with You – 
For One must wait
To shut the Other's Gaze down – 
You – could not – 

And I – could I stand by
And see You – freeze – 
Without my Right of Frost – 
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise – with You – 
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus' – 
That New Grace

Glow plain – and foreign
On my homesick Eye – 
Except that You than He
Shone closer by – 

They'd judge Us – How – 
For You – served Heaven – You know,
Or sought to – 
I could not – 

Because You saturated Sight – 
And I had no more Eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise

And were You lost, I would be – 
Though My Name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame – 

And were You – saved – 
And I – condemned to be
Where You were not – 
That self – were Hell to Me – 

So We must meet apart – 
You there – I – here – 
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer – 
And that White Sustenance –
Despair – 

Emily Dickinson [1863]

There is something about this poem that might very well make it my favorite poem of all time.

“I cannot live with You – / It would be Life – / And Life is over there – / Behind the shelf”

Their love is so overwhelming and all-encompassing that it cannot be allowed to exist, it must be placed “Behind the shelf.” What powerful messaging! It seems she is putting the man off with the opening line, only to pay him and their attraction the biggest compliment that anyone can be paid in this life. Not only is their love “Life,” but it is so much “Life” that it cannot be allowed to persist or come to fruition.

“I could not die- with You – / For One must wait / To shut the Other’s Gaze down – / You – could not – / And I – Could I stand by / And see You – freeze – / Without my Right of Frost – / Death’s privilege?”

The toll all living must pay makes it almost not worth falling in love; well, their type of love. For one of the lovers must die before the other. This brief time between their passing, while one remains alive would be too painful to endure. Would it not? Do we think of these things to little? Do we think of these things too much? The living lover must close the open “lover’s gaze” of their mate. To think on this is painful. Death’s privilege is not having to see the other’s lifeless frost.

“…Your Face / Would put out Jesus’ – / That New Grace”

Getting blasphemous are we Ms. Dickinson?! I know that feeling and how appropriately communicated is it with her chosen metaphor.

“Because You saturated sight – / And I had no more eyes / For sordid excellence /  As Paradise”

The diction here is just perfect! “Saturated” encapsulates everything about the infatuation of love. Although, there is always that feeling of never being saturated enough, never satiating that desire for the other. However, here Dickinson’s pointing to the fact that there is nothing else to see, nothing she can see, but him. Reminds me of that beautiful ballad, “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos and The Complexions.

I simply fell in love with this poem. It truly embodies and communicates some of those deep seeded and seemingly difficult-to-express human emotions commonly linked with falling and being in love. I hope you all enjoy the presence of this beauty of a poem in your lives now.

2 Responses to “Provocative Poem Permeates Personal Ponderations”
  1. TRQ2 says:

    Pretty cool coming from a kid whose father’s favorite poem begins, “There was an old hermit named Dave…”
    Keep the romance alive. Dad

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