Faith in God, some say, provides solace in death. Or, to nonbelievers, there is reassurance that whatever pain and stress one endures, it will vanish once life is at an end. Either way, in contrast to fear of death, (if it is possible even to imagine our own death) why not view it as a solution to a life of trouble? On the other hand, a poem by Emily Dickinson early in her career as a poet, tells us that while we are alive, “There is a word/Which bears a sword” which no one can defend against: forgot.

I cannot remember when I have not felt a divisive chasm between me and others. “Forgot” describes my experience. Soppy? Absolutely, but true as far as my inner life goes. Not true to anyone who looks at the reality. As a child I had doting parents. My older sister was quick to step in whenever a parent wasn’t there to give me attention. Cousins galore, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and always a little “gang” of neighborhood kids were always close to hand. While I think now that popularity in adolescence hurt me in the long run more than if I’d had to negotiate goals requiring more initiative, I enjoyed an abundance of notice. Recognizing this disconnect between reality and “feeling forgot” has driven me to poetry. 

The fact of having been forgotten, however, that the world’s poorest must endure for real, or that a neglected or abused child has to suffer, “Can pierce an armed man — /It hurls it’s barbed syllables”

There is a word

Which bears a sword

Can pierce an armed man —

It hurls it’s barbed syllables

And is mute again —

But where it fell

The saved will tell

On patriotic day,

Some epauletted Brother

Gave his breath away.

 

Wherever runs the breathless sun —

Wherever roams the day,

There is it’s noiseless onset — 

There is its victory!

Behold the keenest marksman!

The most accomplished shot!

Time’s sublimest target

Is a soul “forgot”

According to the poem, the worst of the worst is not even that of a soldier dying alone in war because “The saved will tell” when real patriots arrive in heaven.  

What a gorgeous phrase to describe omnipresence: “Wherever runs the breathless sun —”: there is no place where to be forgotten is not the worst of destinies. 

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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