Nobody left a pile of money on my doorstep today. No long lost love has called. I am simply in a mood to see my everyday conditions and circumstances, comings and goings, as more gleeful than usual. Emily Dickinson’s “In many and reportless places” reflects on this mysterious happiness that occurs like a visitation from some kind of benevolent angel.

In many and reportless places
We feel a Joy –
Reportless, also, but sincere as Nature
Or Deity –

It comes, without a consternation –
Dissolves – the same –
But leaves a sumptuous Destitution –
Without a Name –

Profane it by a search – we cannot –
It has no home –
Nor we who having once inhaled it –
Thereafter roam.

Coincidentally, perhaps, I am looking forward to a get together this evening with friends and neighbors to have fun, dance, and simply socialize and talk.  However, I think I would feel this way whether or not there were activities going on.

Today I woke aware of being among the, “We (who) feel a Joy – / Reportless, also, but sincere as Nature / Or Deity –. It is indeed “Nature” that has acted on me, without plan, without motive, without even consciousness. The delicious privacy of this kind of inner transaction provides for a sense of connectedness.

Unlike those “bad moods” that act to create an unexplainable wedge sometimes.  Yesterday was, by contrast, more like an infestation! For no apparent reason, I looked for an argument. I found myself trying to upstage someone in a conversation from which I had absolutely nothing to benefit. Today has a different feel altogether. I don’t particularly feel like discussing serious matters, I am enjoying a state of mind, “It comes, without a consternation -”.

Experience, like that of the speaker’s in the poem, tells me it will sooner or later, “Dissolve – the same -” as it arrived – inexplicably. The present tense used in the poem fascinates me in the poignancy it lends to the wistful, rueful nostalgia that takes over when it, “But leaves a sumptuous Destitution – / Without a Name -”.

It is in this tenor of life that I realize there is a considerable amount of love in everyday affairs. The poem adds another layer of experience by reminding me of the impossibility of guaranteeing myself the best attitude for every situation: “Profane it by a search – we cannot – / It has no home -”. If I wish to accept the lesson it offers, I notice that the poem deems it “profane,” the opposite of “Nature,” the antithesis of “Deity,” to try to pin down, or make happen, this graceful spirit.

On my own I would not see the comparison the poem seems to establish between not having to search-for-affection and “home.” The little irony of there being no origin, “no home” for this provisional mood, and its effect of making me feel “at home” in my own skin and surroundings is one of the charms of the poem.

I wonder how many people go through life without appreciating the love that pops up in unpredictable ways all the time. To become aware of the connectedness I feel in simple ways, as well as the important ones, is to have a richness of experience that cannot be bought. “Nor we who having once inhaled it – /Thereafter roam.”

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

Like many children, when little I was entertained by garrulous motormouths. At some point in late adolescence I started to appreciate those who could concentrate on a topic so as to enjoy a lengthy conversation.  Not long after, I learned self-confidence when I discovered a knack for leading group discussions and that I enjoyed public speaking and performing. Emily Dickinson sets up conversational references in “I fear a Man of frugal speech -” perhaps to comment on the developmental effect of our interaction with others.

I fear a Man of frugal speech –
I fear a Silent Man –
Haranguer – I can overtake –
Or Babbler – entertain –

But He who weigheth – While the Rest –
Expend their furthest pound –
Of this Man – I am wary –
I fear that He is Grand –

My tendency is to rattle on to fill the gaps of silence in the conversation, as described in line one, between me and someone who uses speech very sparingly, frugally.   In the second example, since there’s no conversation possible with “… a Silent Man – ”, I think of a party or group meeting. There’s the inevitable one who sits listening. The only conversation in this instance is the one I have with myself, so I feel compelled to try to “make ’em talk!” Or, heaven forbid there drop a moment of quiet in an otherwise lively exchange of ideas. Then, I’ve more than once jumped at the chance to have my say.

I read the third example as outright funny. “Haranguer – I can overtake -”. What a spectacle it is when I take the bait and get into a contest of insights, opinions and interpretations with someone who confuses their entitlement to beliefs with their right to exist. Fourth, it is probably a sign of a dampened conscience that my mind goes into to cruise control when I’m around naturally loquacious individuals who epitomize the gift of gab: “Or Babbler – entertain – ”.

In stark contrast to circumstances where another’s silence or “frugal speech” prompts thoughtless chatter on my part, in the fifth line, “But He who weigheth – While the Rest – ”, the poem indicates a progression. Perhaps “the rest” is about those of us who talk or say little because reflective or philosophical thinking is forgotten in the anticipations and apprehensions of discussion.

The word fear is used three times in the poem; twice in the first stanza and once in the second. Fear of what I will say when reacting to someone’s silence by blurting the first words that occur to me. Fear of how much smarter they might be than me. Akin to the fear of the unknown, these conversational lapses remind me that nothing is foreordained. Surely fear in the sense of respect, too, for one who keeps his own counsel when others, “Expend their furthest pound -”, put all they can into convincing others, or showcasing their own cleverness.

In young children it is endearing when bravado and bragging enter into their language and behavior. As Erikson’s “stages of psychosocial development” describe it, 2 to 3-year-olds will either enjoy autonomy or feel shame and doubt; ages 4 to 6 will exhibit self-motivation or guilt; diligence or inferiority will typify childhood from 7 to 11. Autonomy, self-motivation and diligence in these ages is easy to recognize in little babblers and haranguers.

Whether I interpret wary and fear in the final, “Of this Man – I am wary -/ I fear that He is Grand -”, as dread or esteem depends on whether I have found any grandeur in my own life and being – my motivations and responsibilities. And, whether I have the power to experience sympathetic understanding in all kinds of conversations.

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

There are so many Emily Dickinson poems inspired by romantic “Valentine” preoccupations. I decided for this Valentine season to start, as they say, at the beginning. “Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,” launches every comprehensive collection of Dickinson poems. The very first poem I find if I start reading at the beginning recalls those delicious feelings of teenage puppy love while it also tries to sound very grownup. Another teenage trait.

Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,
unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!

Oh the Earth was made for lovers, for damsel, and hopeless swain,
for sighing, and gentle whispering, and unity made of twain,
all things do go a courting, in earth, or sea, or air,
God hath made nothing single but thee in His world so fair!
The bride, and then the bridegroom, the two, and then the one,
Adam, and Eve, his consort, the moon, and then the sun;
the life doth prove the precept, who obey shall happy be,
who will not serve the sovereign, be hanged on fatal tree.
The high do seek the lowly, the great do seek the small,
none cannot find who seeketh, on this terrestrial ball;
The bee doth court the flower, the flower his suit receives,
and they make merry wedding, whose guests are hundred leaves;
the wind doth woo the branches, the branches they are won,
and the father fond demandeth the maiden for his son.
The storm doth walk the seashore humming a mournful tune,
the wave with eye so pensive, looketh to see the moon,
their spirits meet together, they make their solemn vows,
no more he singeth mournful, her sadness she doth lose.
The worm doth woo the mortal, death claims a living bride,
night unto day is married, morn unto eventide;
Earth is a merry damsel, and Heaven a knight so true,
and Earth is quite coquettish, and beseemeth in vain to sue.
Now to the application, to the reading of the roll,
to bringing thee to justice, and marshalling thy soul:
thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone,
wilt have no kind companion, thou reap’st what thou hast sown.
Hast never silent hours, and minutes all too long,
and a deal of sad reflection, and wailing instead of song?
There’s Sarah, and Eliza, and Emeline so fair,
And Harriet, and Susan, and she with curling hair!
Thine eyes are sadly blinded, but yet thou mayest see
six true, and comely maidens sitting upon the tree;
approach that tree with caution, then up it boldly climb,
and seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or time!
Then bear her to the greenwood, and build for her a bower,
and give her what she asketh, jewel, or bird, or flower;
and bring the fife, and trumpet, and beat upon the drum –
And bid the world Goodmorrow, and go to glory home!

The first time we have a teenage crush on someone, an infatuation, we don’t know we have started the long road to learning to balance feelings that provide for lasting attachments, “…strain divine”, with an equally strong urge to be possessive: “tie my Valentine!” The painful problem especially of “tweens” is of wanting a friend to pay attention only to “me” alone.

The heavenly transformation from this self-absorbed condition is captured in poem after poem of Dickinson’s work. Dickinson’s sense of awe toward love relationships was just getting started when she wrote this Valentine poem. The spiritual mystery of romance as a catalyst for selfless action and spiritual self-denial, produced many poems that served as gateways to the poet’s highly evolved spiritual understanding.

I have an aunt, the youngest of Daddy’s sisters, who turns 91 this month. She had a long and happy marriage to “her Johnny” before he died. In a few short years after Johnny died, Aunt Claire, who was in her late 70s at the time, met an 80-year-old deacon in the church they both attended. She described to me the feelings she had when he first invited her to a church social. “I was all giddy inside,” she said. “I felt like a teenager. Isn’t that silly?”

“No, of course not, I said.”

I might have added, “and seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or time!”

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

It is a source of endless fascination for me to examine my own and others’ individuality when acting from within marriage or other committed relationship.

Emily Dickinson’s interest in these dynamics may be described when “She rose to His Requirement — dropt” employs the skeptical voice of the unmarried.

She rose to His Requirement — dropt
The Playthings of Her Life
To take the honorable Work
Of Woman, and of Wife —

If ought She missed in Her new Day,
Of Amplitude, or Awe —
Or first Prospective — Or the Gold
In using, wear away,

It lay unmentioned — as the Sea
Develop Pearl, and Weed,
But only to Himself — be known
The Fathoms they abide —

In my first marriage, I was reasonably happy for many years with its terms. Though, I remember looking in the mirror the first few days after the wedding expecting to look different.

Not so. Though, in looking, I sought to discover whether “I” would survive the urge to merge. The stakes are high. The difference is that between a weed and a pearl.

Of myself I might have said, “If ought She missed in Her new Day, / Of Amplitude, or Awe —”, the fault lay entirely with “her.” There were so many “.. first Prospective(s), I leaped from one to the other for over a decade without much thought about the end-game.

The poem makes “marriage” and “work” synonymous, a fairly common idea in the 21st century. Still, who isn’t drawn to the idea of rising to the challenge posed by sacrifice? Added to that enticement, our culture’s “.. the honorable Work / Of Woman, and of Wife —”, and most women’s egos are drawn to act accordingly, if given the chance.

So, having “dropt / The Playthings of Her Life”, what then?  If “… the Gold (love)/in using, wear away”, the couple may use the convention of marriage to hide the misfortune, (the weed.)  The wearing away of love may, or may not, lay, “unmentioned – as the Sea/Develop Pearl, and Weed,”. The poem’s intrigue is in the issue every paparazzi butters his bread with: willing sacrifice versus sacrificial loss.

The universality of a truth that not only lies with women, for as “.. only to Himself ”, both partners bear truth’s burdens. Whatever is left unsaid, will be “The Fathoms they abide —”.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

I’ve never lacked for big ideas. The challenge is how to convey what I consider important to others. 

A similar personal drama of valued message of ideas and opinions versus their worth to other people takes place in “I play at Riches — to appease”, by Emily Dickinson.

I play at Riches – to appease
The Clamoring for Gold –
It kept me from a Thief, I think,
For often, overbold

With Want, and Opportunity –
I could have done a Sin
And been Myself that easy Thing
An independent Man –

But often as my lot displays
Too hungry to be borne
I deem Myself what I would be –
And novel Comforting

My Poverty and I derive –
We question if the Man –
Who own – Esteem the Opulence –
As We – Who never Can –

Should ever these exploring Hands
Chance Sovreign on a Mine –
Or in the long – uneven term
To win, become their turn –

How fitter they will be – for Want –
Enlightening so well –
I know not which, Desire, or Grant –
Be wholly beautiful –

I want to load people up with my plans for a book, a drama, any number of “shows-for-the-road,” “The Clamoring for Gold — ”. But, are they worth something? I know it is important for me to pay attention to other’s feedback. My tendency, “For often, overbold / With Want, and Opportunity — ” is to overlook details and withdraw into a cocoon instead of listening to criticism.  Resignation and self-pity takes hold, “But often as my lot displays”. Nevertheless, it can bring me back to something akin to truth. “Too hungry to be borne”, I am thrust into a pragmatic self-analysis by examining my ideas to see how well they really hold up in an argument.

I’ve started more than one project to find my plans are larger than my ability to cope with them. “I could have done a Sin” when sloppy thinking led to fantasies of “.. Myself that easy Thing / An independent Man — ”

If I defend the ideas that are important to me without being petty or adversarial, then “My Poverty and I derive” a benefit from releasing envy. My curiosity about the difference between me and “the Man — / Who own — ..” can be useful. Who is to say? “I know not which, Desire, or Grant(ing)” my ambition, “Be wholly beautiful —”.

If my beliefs truly hold up I can “Esteem the Opulence — ” of myself as I am, as well as of public recognition. 

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way 

The only reason I do not have all the power in my life, is that I also have so little.

Emily Dickinson’s tiny little tyranny, “I make His Crescent fill or lack —”, may define strength of dedication where fulfillment of purpose is concerned. It is left for another day to regard the humility and trembling care that goes with believing in the transformative power of pain and loss. And, unheralded sacrifice for the sake of others.

I make His Crescent fill or lack –
His Nature is at Full
Or Quarter – as I signify –
His Tides – do I control –

He holds superior in the Sky
Or gropes, at my Command
Behind inferior Clouds – or round
A Mist’s slow Colonnade –

But since We hold a Mutual Disc –
And front a Mutual Day –
Which is the Despot, neither knows –
Nor Whose – the Tyranny –

The operative word in the first verse is signify. If “I signify —” my approval, I control (by communicating significance) the level of influence I will have. It appears control is the currency, if significance is the goal; “.. at Full / Or Quarter .. /His Tides — do I control —”.

With language used by the most hated representatives of authority, to say of another, “He holds (his place on heights that are) superior .. / Or gropes, (either in the dark, or for a place on the ground) at my Command”, is about the ultimate in expressing unselfconscious omnipotence.

The only reason I do not have all the power over my life (Disc), is that I also have so little.

Could I also say this of God/Fate/Destiny? It seems so.  For, “.. since We hold a Mutual Disc — / And front a Mutual Day —”.

The story of Eve’s eyes being opened to reveal her condition also revealed God. “Which is the Despot, neither knows — / Nor Whose — the Tyranny —”.

The influence of one over the other is deliciously subtle, or, maddeningly so.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

Ah! Love. What lengths I’ve gone to give it, get it, avoid it, protect it and squander it. Because of some kind of inborn impulse, to analyze it, inspect it, speechify it and so on. Emily Dickinson’s “You love me — you are sure —” is an attempt to remain rational about it.

You love me – you are sure –
I shall not fear mistake –
I shall not cheated wake –
Some grinning morn –
To find the Sunrise left –
And Orchards – unbereft –
And Dollie – gone!

I need not start – you’re sure –
That night will never be –
When frightened – home to Thee I run –
To find the windows dark –
And no more Dollie – mark –
Quite none?

Be sure you’re sure – you know –
I’ll bear it better now –
If you’ll just tell me so –
Than when – a little dull Balm grown –
Over this pain of mine –
You sting – again!

The unwritten but understood, “I love you” receives no ideal response, “I love you, too.” But, instead, it picks a fight; “ — you are sure —”? Doubt and suspicion set the tone throughout.  And, resentment, though suppressed. But, is there love?

Now, think about what it means to face every day with me. I wonder if you can be sure that “I shall not fear mistake — / I shall not cheated wake — / Some grinning morn —”. Good grief! Cut the irony before it bites.

Waking with a grin on my face, one “grinning morn”, to find that love has gone stirs up a series of bad images. The only thing the suspicious lover imagines untouched by grief, the trees, “And Orchards — unbereft —”

I won’t puzzle over the identity of “Dollie.” There seems little doubt the nickname is authored by the poet for her sister-in-law, Susan. The poem’s power is in its metaphor for love.

The vulnerability required to trust someone with my tenderest feelings is echoed in the childlike, “When frightened — home to Thee I run —” where I expect to be protected from harm, not find the source of harm. “To find the windows dark —”.

The poem tells me that the time to expose my doubts and fear of betrayal is at the beginning of, or renewal, of a relationship: “I’ll bear it better now — If you’ll just tell me so —”.

“Because it’s not as if I don’t need you. I do.

“In part, ‘Over this pain of mine —’, I’m willing to let your love provide a balm. But, if I let that happen, ‘…when — a little dull Balm grown — / You sting — again!’ 

“Well, I’ll just stop there. I don’t want to imagine more.”

Digest A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way