have you made a war out of your heart?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

have you made a war out of your heart?


have you learned your lessons as well as you could have?
have you poured yourself out entirely and made not a drop
of your soul an acid throw? have you given your mask away
a dozen times and shown yourself naked to the beloved? and if not
why not? the world aches for this sort of courage and you have failed
if you have not done any of these works

have you grown a garden of words and laid the root cellar full of your harvest?
have you gone out into the world and faced each lie with your sword and cut down
as much of that thicket down? have you made a war out of your heart? have you taken
down all those who would harm the ones who are powerless? have you been shield and cry?
have you done the good work? and if not why not? why have you not spoken up and given your blood
for the cause which is the cause of all of mankind? why have you not laid your life on the line?

the line of poetry the line of language the line of acts of courage?
why have you stayed silent while the homeless walked by your home?
why have you not spoken for the hungry? why have you kept quiet when we have been lied to?
why have you not taken out your soul from its burial ground and given it up in life to do the work
of love? I ask you this not to make you ashamed or restless I ask you this because I am curious
how can you let your children live and yet keep silent when their children die?

how can you do this?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Poem 455" from "The Poems of Emily Dickinson"

It was given to me by the Gods –
When I was a little Girl –
They give us Presents most – you know –
When we are new – and small.
I kept it in my Hand –
I never put it down –
I did not dare to eat – or sleep –
For fear it would be gone –
I heard such words as “Rich” –
When hurrying to school –
From lips at Corners of the Streets –
And wrestled with a smile.
Rich!  ‘Twas Myself – was rich –
To take the name of Gold –
And Gold to own – in solid Bars –
The Difference – made me bold –

I am going to interpret this poem as a declaration poem. In this poem, Emily is saying she got her poetical gift as a young girl--she knew it was presented to her "by the Gods -/ When I was a little Girl -".  And she was scared to lose this present.

She kept it in her possession at all times, she "never put it down".  And she worked hard at the writing --for she "did not dare to eat - or sleep -/ For fear it would be gone -".  She was given a gift--but she knew what she had to do to keep the gift in her--work like hell.

And then--she got rumors from others --of the concept of wealth--of the word-- "Rich".

She defined herself--as rich but not the way the others used the word. The difference in how she used the word---that willingness to risk calling herself wealthy --in a different way than others meant the word--she says it "made me bold". And she was bold. She had a right to be bold.  She knew she was rich in talent and that she was making "solid Bars" of "Gold to own" in poems.

In this poem--Emily is declaring to the world--her genius. She is unequivocal here.  Shamelessly bold--she tells us she was given her poetical gift as a child, she tells us she "never put it down" but worked hard to keep it with her--fearing its disappearance--she hardly slept or ate, and she knew her wealth.

With this sort of inner confidence--what need had she for the world's approbation? She knew her own worth. Once you know your own worth--in gold standard writing--what need you for verification from the lesser gods?

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