There may be days upon days, upon months and years of grief after the loss of a love. Here is a poem by Emily Dickinson that goes looking for the person I was before, instead of the person, job, or other missing part of my life.  Don’t be put off by the third person “she” or “her.” They are false clues.

There are 42 dashes in “’Twas the old — road — through pain —”.  If you take a breath every time you read a dash, you will feel with me the protracted rhythm of grief, along with its struggle to believe.

‘Twas the old — road — through pain —

That unfrequented — One — 

With many a turn — and thorn — 

That stops — at Heaven — 


This — was the Town — she passed — 

There — where she — rested — last — 

Then — stepped more fast — 

The little tracks — close prest — 

Then — not so swift — 

Slow — slow — as feet did weary — grow — 

Then — stopped — no other track!


Wait! Look! Her little Book — 

The leaf — at love — turned back — 

Her very Hat — 

And this worn shoe just fits the track — 

Herself — though — fled!


Another bed — a short one — 

Women make — tonight — 

In Chambers bright — 

Too out of sight — though — 

For our hoarse Good Night — 

To touch her Head!

Even a living relationship transitions from idealism to reality, “With many a turn — and thorn — ”, but, if one is lost in death, “That stops — at Heaven — ”.

There is an unevenness about grief, like the inconsistency in the poem’s stanza sizes.

Don’t you love the steely self-sleuthing, “And this worn shoe just fits the track — ”, the “track” of the familiar. No television crime show or detective story captures more precisely the suspense, written into this poem, in wanting to find what happened and where. The emotional strain to hold on to what has been is weighted by the drive for balance: “Another bed — a short one —”.  After many years I found resolution and comfort by realizing the person I was before I was changed by love is now “Too out of sight — though —”, and, “hoarse” with weeping. A new equilibrium finally exists in knowing the “me” prior to the love I found can no longer be touched. 


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way