When my marriage fell apart there were “Miles on Miles of Nought — ”. I like to know that refined expression does not preclude raw emotion. In fact, it can help often the blow.

When I first read an Emily Dickinson poem 30 years ago, I was stunned by what seemed like verbal eruptions.  “Volcanic,” I would learn in later years, is characteristic of Dickinson’s unique lexicon. I recognized their mixture of love, anger, fear, power, confusion, delight and awe roiling around inside my simple being.

I tie my Hat — I crease my Shawl — 

Life’s little duties do — precisely — 

As the very least

Were infinite — to me — 


I put new Blossoms in the Glass — 

And throw the Old — away — 

I push a petal from my Gown

That anchored there — I weigh

The time ’twill be till six o’clock — 

So much I have to do — 

And yet — existence — some way back — 

Stopped — struck — my ticking — through — 


We cannot put Ourself away

As a completed Man

Or Woman — When the errand’s done

We came to Flesh — opon — 

There may be — Miles on Miles of Nought — 

Of Action — sicker far — 

To simulate — is stinging work — 

To cover what we are


From Science — and from Surgery — 

Too Telescopic eyes

To bear on us unshaded — 

For their — sake — Not for Ours —


Therefore — we do life’s labor — 

Though life’s Reward — be done — 

With scrupulous exactness — 

To hold our Senses —  on —  

 A life organized around details “till six o’clock — ”, such as seeing to it that a fresh flower is in its place when I “throw the Old — away —” might be marked by an eternally churning clock in the slow days of grief.  Pretending to others everything was normal, unable to face divorce, I discovered the truth of “To simulate — is stinging work — /To cover what we are”

When volcanoes are going off inside because “life’s Reward — be done —”, I may scream silently, but know “we do life’s labor —/…To hold our Senses —  on — ”.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way