Someone should add music. “It ceased to hurt me, though so slow” is musical, easy to understand and sweet-sounding. It embodies familiar feelings of having survived loss. But, not without a melancholy reluctance to let go of hurt.

It ceased to hurt me, though so slow
I could not feel the Anguish go –
But only knew by looking back –
That something – had benumbed the Track –

Nor when it altered, I could say,
For I had worn it, every day,
As constant as the Childish frock –
I hung upon the Peg, at night.

But not the Grief – that nestled close
As needles – ladies softly press
To Cushions Cheeks –
To keep their place –

Nor what consoled it, I could trace –
Except, whereas ’twas Wilderness –
It’s better – almost Peace –

Dickinson borrows from the lexicon of railroads, “That something – had benumbed the Track – ” to add to the sense of motion. We are carried along in a life that refuses to stop despite a deprivation forced upon us.  Still, we can’t keep from looking back: “I could not feel the Anguish go – /But only knew by looking back – ” .

In another poem of Dickinson’s that is familiar to many fans of the poet, we are told that hope “..sings the tune without the words – and never stops – at all.” The silent force of hope acts on our minds and spirits without our being aware. Then, one day I realize my once deeply felt sorrow has undergone a change; “Nor when it altered, I could say, / For I had worn it, every day,”.

Don’t get me wrong, is the warning of the third stanza. Here, the poem instructs me to avoid the mistake of thinking that while the debilitating effects of great loss have been alleviated – grief itself is not cast out: “But not the Grief – that nestled close”.  As needlecraft is employed to decorate and comfort, so grief and its aftermath renders the tapestry of days, “To keep their place -”.

While I read this poem, I, too, am compelled to think about the past, and wonder “what consoled it,” . There is nothing “I could trace -” that would fulfill such a mighty undertaking!  All I know is, “whereas ’twas Wilderness – / It’s better – almost Peace -”.

If a modern band like, say, “The Who” were to record this song-poem, I feel certain they would scream in all the right places. And, give drive-time radio listeners and MP3 download zealots a high time.

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way


One of the things I love about poems by Emily Dickinson is how they go beyond most poetry, even great poetry, which derive power in precision. Many beautiful poems find ways to express what we respond to by saying, “Oh! I’ve thought that; or, felt that; or, noticed it. But, I never considered writing it.”

Dickinson poems do that in an almost off-handed manner. Why? I think Dickinson’s dominance over other works is in jumping from the universal-but-unspoken truths we all recognize once they been articulated.  Then, confounding us with a larger truth. In “He fumbles at your Soul” the poem reorganizes our sense of time and space for the sake of bringing us back to what it considers the only important space – within each heart.

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys –
Before they drop full Music on –
He stuns you by Degrees –

Prepares your brittle nature
For the etherial Blow
By fainter Hammers – further heard-
Then nearer – Then so – slow –

Your Breath – has time to straighten –
Your Brain – to bubble cool –
Deals One – imperial Thunderbolt –
That scalps your naked soul –

When Winds hold Forests in their Paws –
The Universe – still –

The wooshing rhythm and clipped phrases mimic the wild unpredictability of a storm. And, of passion. Of a lover whose “hands fumble at your Soul”, in the way a piano virtuoso plays (with?) the keys.

Our lives are “taken for a ride,” or, if you prefer the modern phrase, “follow your bliss.”

By contrast, we are reminded that finally if we have a way to get there, we want to return to a quieter place than where we were before.

Before reading the poem.

Digest A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way