Tuesday, March 31, 2009


EXCEPT the heaven had come so near,
So seemed to choose my door,
The distance would not haunt me so;
I had not hoped before.

But just to hear the grace depart
I never thought to see,
Afflicts me with a double loss;
’T is lost, and lost to me.

I don't begin to understand what dear Emily Dickinson meant by these lines and I can't find any interpretation, so I'll take a stab.

It is well known that Emily resisted conversion during a revival when she was enrolled at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Of those converted, she wrote, "They seem so very tranquil, and their voices are kind, and gentle, and the tears fill their eyes so often, I really think I envy them."

I wonder if the above poem speaks to this kind of revival that came so close to home ("seemed to choose my door"). Is she saying that God's distance, in light of this new closeness, haunts (or hurts) her? Did she have hope on this occasion that she had never hoped before? Did God's grace depart once the revival was over? She implies this elsewhere. Is the loss double because the grace (perhaps meaning the revival) has ended and her opportunity to accept the grace has passed her by?

Here's another poem that may have a similar theme:

JUST lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!

Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!

Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.

Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,—
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This morning I'm reading some poems from Harrison's 2006 book of poetry. Here are some lines worth pondering.

I can freely tie myself up without rope.
This talent is in the realm of antimagic
and many people have it. . . . (p. 10)

He's [God] so tired of hearing about this ditzy Irishman,
Bishop Ussher, who spread the rumor that creation
only took six thousand years when it required twelve billion.
Man Shrunk himself with the biological hysteria
of clocks, the machinery of dread. You spend twelve billion
years inventing ninety billion galaxies and who appreciates
your work except children, birds and dogs, and a few
other genius strokes like otters and porpoises, those humans
who kiss joy as it flies, who see though not with the eye. (72)

The church says God is spy
who keeps track of how we misues
our genitals. . . . (115)