I remember when I memorized the following poem by Emily Dickinson five years ago as protection from despair when my car broke down.  

I wrote the poem out on a piece of paper where I could refer to it while taking the bus to the transmission experts.  I read it while I rode many miles across town, navigated a transfer, walking several blocks and crossing a highway on foot in a strange neighborhood, to catch another.

I chose this poem for its theme of focusing on inner resources, a good antidote to the discomfort I felt about the trek I had to make and the car repair expense I could barely afford.

Have you got a Brook in your little heart,

Where bashful flowers blow,

And blushing birds go down to drink — 

And shadows tremble so — 


And nobody knows, so still it flows,

That any brook is there,

And yet your little draught of life

Is daily drunken there — 


Why — look out for the little brook in March,

When rivers overflow,

And the snows come hurrying from the hills,

And the bridges often go — 


And later, in August it may be,

When the meadows parching lie,

Beware, lest this little brook of life,

Some burning noon go dry!

While Atlanta city streets create a hugely impersonal experience while I am on foot, I imagine a quiet place inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park where the Little Pigeon River forms a narrow creek hidden by rhododendron. 

Pushing away fears about paying for the transmission and brakes, I concentrate on breathing deeply my “little draught of life”. 

Recalling how spring comes late in the shadow of Mount LeConte in Tennessee, “And the snows come hurrying from the hills,” I know the rigidity of my resolution in this current challenge will also relax soon. The poem is my bridge from anxiety to belief.

Now that I live in a small Massachusetts town, I take public transportation often and easily. That former “August” is forgotten. Any eventual challenge to my sense of security, “When the meadows parching lie,” will include the poem that is now part of my brain’s hard drive. 


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way