Forgive me for being late with thoughts about Emily Dickinson poetry and Thanksgiving. Usually, the poet’s response to recurring events like holidays and memorials is muted and atypical. I find this to be especially true of religious observances. Nonetheless, in “Gratitude – is not the mention” there is respect and significance noted for the impulse to express thanks. Unlike some other “teaching poems” this one is rather gentle.

Gratitude – is not the mention
Of a Tenderness,
But its still appreciation
Out of Plumb of Speech.

When the Sea return no Answer
By the Line and Lead
Proves it there’s no Sea, or rather
A remoter Bed?

This poem seems especially sensitive to gratitude that is strong and fundamental, if not particularly noticeable. I find, “still appreciation” a rhetorical way to acknowledge a sound, honest relationship so rooted in trust and mutual appreciation, few words are needed any more. Like marriage after several decades, or a friendship that has stood the test of time.

It is not clear whether the first stanza and “the mention/Of a Tenderness,” refers to my tender expression of thank you, or of someone else’s tenderness that deserves my mention. The phrase “…Plumb of Speech” as a metaphor for the limitation and the measurement between two points, is, in this case, between what I’ll refer to as my voice and another’s ear.

Just as I, when a little girl, liked to watch my neighbors or relatives when they puttered with home projects, teaching me what a plumb line was, I imagine the poet watching as servants and construction crews worked at the homestead. It was a tiny farm with animals, crops and constant growth to the barn, the house and peripheral buildings. Unlike me, Dickinson studied the uses of the plumb line and adapted it poetically.

Then, “..line and lead” compared to the vastness of “..the Sea (that) return no Answer” suggests the puny improbability of a truly accurate statement of thanks in a relationship between humans and God, a child and adult, anyone and the myriad gift-givers a life encounters.

Silence, or nearly so, does not mean there is not gratitude, ”When the Sea return no Answer”.

Digest A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way