There’s a jostled brain struggling to connect with its own feelings in the poem, “If I may have it, when it’s dead,” by Emily Dickinson. The poem is the voice of the schism that occurs after the death of a loved one, imagining “I’ll be contented – so – ” to have conversations with, even possession of, the beloved’s spirit, though the body is lost: “If just as soon as Breath is out/It shall belong to me -”.

If I may have it, when it’s dead,
I’ll be contented – so –
If just as soon as Breath is out
It shall belong to me –

Until they lock it in the Grave,
‘Tis Bliss I cannot weigh –
For tho’ they lock Thee in the Grave,
Myself – can own the key –

Think of it Lover! I and Thee
Permitted – face to face to be –
After a Life – a Death – we’ll say –
For Death was That –
And This – is Thee –

I’ll tell Thee All – how Bald it grew –
How Midnight felt, at first – to me –
How all the Clocks stopped in the World –
And Sunshine pinched me – ‘Twas so cold –

Then how the Grief got sleepy – some –
As if my soul were deaf and dumb –
Just making signs – across – to Thee –
That this way – thou could’st notice me –

I’ll tell you how I tried to keep
A smile, to show you, when this Deep
All Waded – We look back for Play,
At those Old times – in Calvary.

Forgive me, if the Grave come slow –
For Coveting to look at Thee –
Forgive me, if to stroke thy frost
Outvisions Paradise!

This unique poem voices the chasm between the heart and mind which happens after the loss of a love. The poem isn’t remembering. The poem is the mind attempting to escape the pain that is tearing the heart apart. The poem is the experience of the genuine though nonsensical, “Bliss I cannot weigh – /For tho’ they lock Thee in the Grave”.

And, the poem demonstrates the talkativeness that is characteristic of a person in shock. “I’ll tell Thee All – how Bald it grew – /How Midnight felt,.. /How all the Clocks… – /And Sunshine pinched me”.

In programs like The Compassionate Friends, a nationwide self-help organization for bereaved families after the death of a child, much has been made of the negotiation stage of grief.  Confronted with its fact, the mind and heart that cannot take in all the ramifications of death seek to bargain with the unthinkable: “Just making signs – across – to Thee – /That this way – thou could’st notice me -/….A smile, to show you,”

In the final stanza there may be signs of slight, albeit slow, movement toward acceptance of the death. The poem voices grief’s resistance in the face of the inevitable: “Forgive me, if the Grave come slow – ….”.

 

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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