Unexpectedly seeing a much-loved friend who’s wandered out of my life, while I’m out and about, brings back welcome memories.

The poem, “The Luxury to apprehend”, by Emily Dickinson, teaches me more about this kind of encounter.

And it expands my thinking, and the feelings that go with thoughts, of family and friends lost in death, or because of geographic changes.

The Luxury to apprehend

The Luxury ‘twould be

To look at thee a single time

An Epicure of me

In whatsoever presence makes

Till for a further food

I scarcely recollect to starve

So first am I supplied.


The Luxury to meditate

The Luxury it was

To banquet on thy Countenance

A sumptuousness supplies

To plainer Days whose Table, far

As Certainty can see

Is laden with a single Crumb —

The Consciousness of thee —

This is a complex poem that can be discussed for a long time if you enjoy that sort of thing. Anyone grieving after a death; or, who misses someone whose path has taken them elsewhere, is described here. This particular poem is among those I count as old friends.  Reading it brings back a memory I cherish of the early days of a friendship with Margaret Freeman, who introduced the poem’s marvels and helped me to understand it, several years ago.

The moment I attributed the word “luxury” to the thoughts I have (“The Luxury ‘twould be/To look at thee a single time”) for my deceased daughter, I was strongly attracted to the riddle.

The poem suggests what every bereaved parent knows: Now that I’ve known one so cherished, I am more discerning about (and, eventually more interested in) other kinds of people. The dead child has made “An Epicure of me”.  

Whatever is happening, “in whatsoever presence makes” in my life, ultimately, “I scarcely recollect to starve” for anything more, because now that she has been in my life it is a new “Luxury to Meditate…To banquet on thy Countenance”.  True, compared with the living person, memory is a “…single Crumb —”.  Still, the “banquet” of having had her in my life is “a sumptuousness (that) supplies/To (these) plainer days”.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way