OPEN ME CAREFULLY
Those words were written by Emily Dickinson on a letter to a woman she loved. Yet the plea feels universal; applying to modern women of any orientation. Aside from one’s admiration for Dickinson’s poetry (or not) the idea of moving into any kind of closeness with care and gentleness is an appeal for a rather old-fashioned method of moving outward. Not falling in love, or madly in love or crazy with love, but a calm and gentle moving together the way a canoe glides over a pond. Water is excited into a wave, foams up into a triangle, and then settles down into being water again with barely a memory of the thrill except the leaf in a new place or the stone overturned.
In the same way a poem passes through the reader when colors and images ignite in the brain, memories are resurrected and made to jump up and live again. All the words of any poem are old friends that we recognize and use repeatedly. Yet sometimes when the most familiar words enter a new relationship, a different juxtaposition, they can carry new truth and inspiration. We are never completely the same afterwards.
Observe this poem that uses only the first lines from Emily Dickinson’s poems.
let us play
yesterday a daisy vanished
departed to judgment
whatever it is, someone has tried it
whatever he dissolves is nothing
she’s an outcome
of thunder lynching a blitz
left-handed then reversed
donating her grounds
to the thirst of roots
the moment arm
on a cruiser’s water bed
befuddles us rolling
with the full moon abducted
by the mane of spring tide
foam on the breath of saints in a world
to join the jazz of a blue grass band from
you that hurt the most daily there is
the disorder of her negligee lace and satin
– You did open it!
– What – oh my gosh – how did you find out?
– Well, I saw the marks of the pencil you rolled so carefully under the gluey part of the envelope till it gave in, split open.
– Yam yam
– It seems to me you’d forgotten my new friend works for Home Security…well anyway, thank you for elastic surprises. Some day I’ll let you trespass into equally untaxed territory – sharpen your pen and oil it, it may leave no traces unleashing the urge for flocculent velvety terror.
I read things like that to make me jealous
like a belligerent thing in the memory true
like a pool in which sandaled feet swim bluegreen
leaf by petal, leaf by leaf as if the soul of one of
newborn came in between the trees on a ridge
as I was visited by a strangeness in that second
Ophelia just by smell
nimble-fingered in the dark
you can change baby diapers
multiplier of bacteria
like in dishtowels’
shades of cream
your straw head nods
like with wine and wafer
above a female mantra
ridding herself of another
spoiled to death copier
poets light but lamps
yet what a mystery pervades a well!
it's easy to invent a life
in the morning is a place for dew
like mighty footlight burning red
there's a certain slant of light
"houses" so the wise me tell me
when musicians wrestle
it is good to hide to hear them hunt
I heard a fly buzz - when I died
green as a clocks hands
the heart player appeared to be purple
at all hours of the night
this is a left-over life I am living
with my hair in a different picture