“He was weak, and I was strong – then – ” by Emily Dickinson, balances my memories of give and take.

He was weak, and I was strong – then –
So He let me lead him in –
I was weak, and He was strong then –
So I let him lead me – Home.

Twasn’t far – the door was near –
Twasn’t dark – for He went – too –
Twasn’t loud, for He said nought –
That was all I cared to know.

Day knocked – and we must part –
Neither – was strongest – now –
He strove – and I strove – too –
We didn’t do it – tho!

The thing about the holidays is that, for me, equal pressure builds to remember, along with desires “to forget” loved ones I won’t have with me.

As I read “I was weak, and He was strong then – ” something relaxes my unconscious resistance. The hymnal rhythms, together with the borrowing of familiar Christian lyrics about Jesus’s role as a comforter, bring me into direct relationship with the origin of loves that define me. 

“Twasn’t far… / Twasn’t dark… / Twasn’t loud… / That was all I cared to know” is permission to think about past adventures, perfectly balancing in memory the parts played by “him” and me, even sexual ones, as I think the poem suggests.

It is to me hypnotic, this “weak and strong” seesaw of the roles we each play. The poem plucks remorse out of memory and replaces it with a teleology applicable only to relationship. Even the power of awareness: “Day knocked – and we must part – ”, a forced and forceful equilibrium launched by the realization that “Neither was strongest – now – ” seems inevitable. Striving to resist temptations of passion, “He strove – and I strove – too – ” is safely general and lulls me into imagining all manner of circumstances without letting me wander off into self-blame.

“We didn’t do it – tho’!” is so specific. If ever a capitalized word, “It,” for example, would have made meaning clear, this would be it.  But, no capital exists, freeing me to generalize, still. 

 

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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