My feet slipped on the ice yesterday while walking my dogs on the “woodsy path” nearby. I fell and broke my left arm.  

Thanksgiving. “I did not reach Thee”.

I did not reach Thee
But my feet slip nearer every day
Three Rivers and a Hill to cross
One Desert and a Sea
I shall not count the journey one
When I am telling thee

Two deserts but the year is cold
So that will help the sand
One desert crossed –
The second one
Will feel as cool as land
Sahara is too little price
To pay for thy Right hand

The Sea comes last – Step merry feet
So short we have to go
To play together we are prone
But we must labor now
The last shall be the lightest load
That we have had to draw

The Sun goes crooked –
That is Night
Before he makes the bend
We must have past the Middle Sea
Almost we wish the End
Were further off
Too great it seems
So near the Whole to stand

We step like plush
We stand like snow
The waters murmur new
Three rivers and the Hill are passed
Two deserts and the Sea!
Now Death usurps my Premium
And gets the look at Thee –

As anyone knows who has read this blog before, I read myself into these poems, rather than attempting the work of scholars and critics to decipher Emily Dickinson’s meanings and to deconstruct her genius.

This poem captured my attention today, obviously, by my quick connection to its use of “slipping feet.”

Though I cannot find a reference to confirm my instinct that “Three Rivers and a Hill to cross” is the title to a soldier’s ballad, it further romanticizes and adds hope to the painful awareness I have just now about limits of my own best efforts. “When I am telling thee” promises to place me squarely with someone, with an intimate feeling, somewhere in the future. It also reminds me of war time fantasies. 

Typing this with only my right hand, I find a peculiar charm in the poem’s circular, or “retreating forward” motion, to borrow a phrase from Robert Weisbuch, a Dickinson critic. Within its lilting rhythms, the poem hints of strategic movement, also recalling a war mentality, to warn me of beating to death experiences and situations which call for feeling and sympathy.

The poem is my long trek replete with fascinating detail, despite the possibility that “Death usurps my Premium/And gets the look at Thee”.


Digest A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way