I am reluctant to admit it, but my concern today is with my identity. Most people would consider it a bit too abstract, but I am pulled in this way with a sense of personal isolation, loneliness, relationship problems. All those depressing thoughts.

Emily Dickinson’s poem “A single Screw of Flesh” suggests to me that my problem lies with the fluidity, perhaps duality, of identity. After asking, “What shall I do to fuse myself with my soul?,” the poem concludes, not with the answer, but by looking outward.

A single Screw of Flesh
Is all that pins the Soul
That stands for Deity, to mine,
Opon my side the Vail –

Once witnessed of the Gauze –
Its name is put away
As far from mine, as if no plight
Had printed yesterday,

In tender – solemn Alphabet,
My eyes just turned to see –
When it was smuggled by my sight
Into Eternity –

More Hands – to hold – These are but Two –
One more new-mailed Nerve
Just granted, for the Peril’s sake –
Some striding – Giant – Love –

So greater than the Gods can show,
They slink before the Clay,
That not for all their Heaven can boast
Will let its Keepsake – go

The poem mirrors my uneasiness with its concern over the tenuous, but binding task of “the flesh” to contain my soul.

In contrast to the flesh-defined me about which I testify by recording my perils in this blog, my soul’s identity, whose “name is put away / As far from” the flesh-defined me as it can be, has its own purposes.

My soul is trapped, contained; its identity obscured. Any designs I may have of recording this dual nature by including my soul as a witness of this flesh, which is like a gauze wrapper around it, ends up giving me the feeling I never recorded anything, “as if no plight / Had printed yesterday ”.

The poem is for me a “tender — solemn Alphabet”.  Though the task of pinning down my soul only leaves me with the impression “it was smuggled by my sight / Into Eternity”. So, perhaps I should stop staring at my (eternal) belly button.

The poem eventually focuses me on the fact that I do have two hands “These are but Two —” and, “for the Peril’s sake — ” attention must be given to “More hands — to hold —”. After all, I sorely need a dose of positive thinking to cheer me up.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way