Today I feel like being alone with thoughts and feelings about everything under the sun. As I busy myself with little cleanup jobs and smaller baking projects my thoughts explore how I feel about money, work, family and friends without feeling bad or good. It’s nice. The poem by Emily Dickinson “Give little Anguish —” employs a similar calm and reflective mood.

Give little Anguish –
Lives will fret –
Give Avalanches –
And they’ll slant –
Straighten – look cautious for their Breath –
But make no syllable – like Death –
Who only shows his Marble Disc –
Sublimer sort – than Speech –

I’m not in the mood for light-minded chit-chat, or even trivial pastimes like shopping or television.  I could handle “little Anguish -/(for) Lives will fret -”.  So, I was lucky that one old friend who I consider a serious person when I need it, phoned to see how I was doing and to catch up. 

Always in the back of my mind when I am in these thoughtsy moods, of course, are memories of life when it did “Give Avalanches -” of sorrow and longing. As a survivor of incest (from an in-law) when I was nine, sometimes I think the death of my daughter when I was 39 compounded an unmanageable avalanche of really bad feelings. It fully sabotaged a time when I thought we could “Straighten – look cautious for their Breath -”.  The “Marble Disc -”, a metaphor for actual death, including hers, speaks to the risk of its becoming also symbolic of that “Sublimer sort – than Speech -”, a death of personal will.

This poem’s strongest line: “But make no syllable – like Death -” always takes my breath away for its attention to the silence of the largest private topics. But, with today’s mood, I’m not overly emotional about even that.


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way