There are wounds that never heal. To believe otherwise is to invite defeat.

The poem, “They say that “Time assuages” —”, by Emily Dickinson, demonstrates and thereby teaches a kind of courage. The poem refuses to give an inch toward false hope. Unlike most poetry, it seeks not to express unexpressible feeling.

We’ve all heard, “time heals all wounds,” and the puritanical, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in the world to rise above.” more»  Given its contradiction of these wisdoms, this is the poetic version of a slap, or a glass of cold water, on a hysterical face. 

They say that “Time assuages” —
Time never did assuage —
An actual suffering strengthens
As Sinews do, with age —

Time is a Test of Trouble —
But not a Remedy —
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no Malady —

Some wounds, instead of healing, only start hurting again given certain conditions after many years have passed, “As sinews do, with age —”.

The second stanza adds to this blunt approach toward truth. Is the poem meant to cast suspicious doubt on somebody who gets in step with life after a tragedy and seems to “put things in perspective,” as I’ve heard so often? 

The world says, “Life goes on.” To which the poem answers, “If such it prove, it prove too / There was no Malady —”.

Suffering is not a contest. And, many bereaved families learn to accomodate their “Trouble” by creating conditions that lead to finding someone with whom to bring to light our oversensitivity and impulse to withdraw into ourselves. If we don’t do this, despite our best effort, we will repeatedly react to everyday slights with hurt and willingness to become hurtful. 

I found by talking to other bereaved parents I could look into painful experiences. This is “… not a Remedy”.

Talking, sometimes a lot, about abuse as a child does not mean, ever, “There was no Malady”.

Taking my place in a community of people with similar maladies makes me freer in my behavior. It lightens up my close relationships. It thaws my regard for my own body. Importantly, it improves my odds against hurting others.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way