Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

November 23, 2006

Over Emily Dickinson’s for Thanksgiving: 16 Poems


Emily Dickinson




A Bird came down the Walk

            A Bird came down the Walk–
            He did not know I saw–
            He bit an Angleworm in halves
            And ate the fellow, raw,

            And then he drank a Dew
            From a convenient Grass–
            And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
            To let a Beetle pass–

            He glanced with rapid eyes
            That hurried all around–
            They looked like frightened Beads, I thought–
            He stirred his Velvet Head

            Like one in danger, Cautious,
            I offered him a Crumb
            And he unrolled his feathers
            And rowed him softer home–

            Than Oars divide the Ocean,
            Too silver for a seam–
            Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
            Leap, plashless as they swim.



God gave a Loaf to every Bird

            God gave a Loaf to every Bird–
            But just a Crumb–to Me–
            I dare not eat it–tho’ I starve–
            My poignant luxury–

            To own it–touch it–
            Prove the feat–that made the Pellet mine–
            Too happy–for my Sparrow’s chance–
            For Ampler Coveting–

            It might be Famine–all around–
            I could not miss an Ear–
            Such Plenty smiles upon my Board–
            My Garner shows so fair–

            I wonder how the Rich–may feel–
            An Indiaman–An Earl–
            I deem that I–with but a Crumb–
            Am Sovereign of them all–




He ate and drank the precious Words

            He ate and drank the precious Words–
            His Spirit grew robust–
            He knew no more that he was poor,
            Nor that his frame was Dust–

            He danced along the dingy Days
            And this Bequest of Wings
            Was but a Book–What Liberty
            A loosened spirit brings–



I bring an unaccustomed wine

            I bring an unaccustomed wine
            To lips long parching
            Next to mine,
            And summon them to drink;

            Crackling with fever, they Essay,
            I turn my brimming eyes away,
            And come next hour to look.

            The hands still hug the tardy glass–
            The lips I would have cooled, alas–
            Are so superfluous Cold–

            I would as soon attempt to warm
            The bosoms where the frost has lain
            Ages beneath the mould–

            Some other thirsty there may be
            To whom this would have pointed me
            Had it remained to speak–

            And so I always bear the cup
            If, haply, mine may be the drop
            Some pilgrim thirst to slake–

            If, haply, any say to me
            “Unto the little, unto me,”
            When I at last awake.




I had been hungry, all the Years

            I had been hungry, all the Years–
            My Noon had Come–to dine–
            I, trembling, drew the Table near–
            And touched the Curious Wine–

            ‘Twas this on Tables I had seen–
            When turning, hungry, Home
            I looked in Windows, for the Wealth
            I could not hope–for Mine–

            I did not know the ample Bread–
            ‘Twas so unlike the Crumb
            The birds and I had often shared
            In Nature’s Dining-Room–

            The Plenty hurt me–’twas so new–
            Myself felt ill–and odd–
            As Berry–of A Mountain Bush
            Transplanted–to the Road–

            Nor was I hungry–so I found
            That Hunger–was a way
            Of Persons outside Windows–
            The Entering–takes away–



I meant to have but modest needs

            I meant to have but modest needs–
            Such as Content–and Heaven–
            Within my income–these could lie
            And Life and I–keep even–

            But since the last–included both–
            It would suffice my Prayer
            But just for One–to stipulate–
            And Grace would grant the Pair–

            And so–upon this wise–I prayed–
            Great Spirit–Give to me
            A Heaven not so large as Yours,
            But large enough–for me–

            A Smile suffused Jehovah’s face–
            The Cherubim–withdrew–
            Grave Saints stole out to look at me–
            And showed their dimples–too–

            I left the Place, with all my might–
            I threw my Prayer away–
            The Quiet Ages picked it up–
            And Judgment–twinkled–too–
            Tat one so honest–be extant–
            It take the Tale for true–
            That “Whatsoever Ye shall ask–
            Itself be given You”–

            But I, grown shrewder–scan the Skies
            With a suspicious Air–
            As Children–swindled for the first
            All Swindlers–be–infer–




I worked for chaff and earning Wheat

            I worked for chaff and earning Wheat
            Was haughty and betrayed.
            What right had Fields to arbitrate
            In matters ratified?

            I tasted Wheat and hated Chaff
            And thanked the ample friend–
            Wisdom is more becoming viewed
            At distance than at hand.




It sifts from Leaden Sieves

            It sifts from Leaden Sieves–
            It powders all the Wood.
            It fills with Alabaster Wool
            The Wrinkles of the Road–

            It makes an Even Face
            Of Mountain and of Plain–
            Unbroken Forehead from the East
            Unto the East again–

            It reaches to the Fence–
            It wraps it Rail by Rail
            Till it is lost in Fleeces–
            It deals Celestial Veil

            To Stump and Stack–and Stem–
            A Summer’s empty Room–
            Acres of Joints where Harvests were,
            Recordless, but for them–

            It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
            As Ankles of a Queen–
            Then stills its Artisans–like Ghosts,
            Denying they have been–



One Blessing had I than the rest

            One Blessing had I than the rest
            So larger to my Eyes
            That I stopped gauging–satisfied–
            For this enchanted size–

            It was the limit of my Dream–
            The focus of my Prayer–
            A perfect–paralyzing Bliss–
            Contented as Despair–

            I knew no more of Want–or Cold–
            Phantasms both become
            For this new Value in the Soul–
            Supremest Earthly Sum–

            The Heaven below the Heaven above–
            Obscured with ruddier Blue–
            Life’s Latitudes leant over–full–
            The Judgment perished–too–

            Why Bliss so scantily disburse–
            Why Paradise defer–
            Why Floods be served to Us–in Bowls–
            I speculate no more–



One Day is there of the Series

            One Day is there of the Series
            Termed Thanksgiving Day.
            Celebrated part at Table
            Part in Memory.

            Neither Patriarch nor Pussy
            I dissect the Play
            Seems it to my Hooded thinking
            Reflex Holiday.

            Had there been no sharp Subtraction
            From the early Sum–
            Not an Acre or a Caption
            Where was once a Room–

            Not a Mention, whose small Pebble
            Wrinkled any Sea,
            Unto Such, were such Assembly
            ‘Twere Thanksgiving Day.



Prayer is the little implement

            Prayer is the little implement
            Through which Men reach
            Where Presence–is denied them.
            They fling their Speech

            By means of it–in God’s Ear–
            If then He hear–
            This sums the Apparatus
            Comprised in Prayer–



They won’t frown alway–some sweet Day

            They won’t frown alway–some sweet Day
            When I forget to tease–
            They’ll recollect how cold I looked
            And how I just said “Please.”

            Then They will hasten to the Door
            To call the little Girl
            Who cannot thank Them for the Ice
            That filled the lisping full.




‘Twas just this time, last year, I died

            ‘Twas just this time, last year, I died.
            I know I heard the Corn,
            When I was carried by the Farms–
            It had the Tassels on–

            I thought how yellow it would look–
            When Richard went to mill–
            And then, I wanted to get out,
            But something held my will.

            I thought just how Red–Apples wedged
            The Stubble’s joints between–
            And the Carts stooping round the fields
            To take the Pumpkins in–

            I wondered which would miss me, least,
            And when Thanksgiving, came,
            If Father’d multiply the plates–
            To make an even Sum–

            And would it blur the Christmas glee
            My Stocking hang too high
            For any Santa Claus to reach
            The Altitude of me–

            But this sort, grieved myself,
            And so, I thought the other way,
            How just this time, some perfect year–
            Themself, should come to me–

            It was too late for man,
            But early yet for God;
            Creation impotent to help,
            But prayer remained our side.

            How excellent the heaven,
            When earth cannot be had;
            How hospitable, then, the face
            Of our old neighbor, God!



Undue Significance a starving man attaches

            Undue Significance a starving man attaches
            To Food–
            Far off–He sighs–and therefore–Hopeless–
            And therefore–Good–

            Partaken–it relieves–indeed–
            But proves us
            That Spices fly
            In the Receipt–It was the Distance–
            Was Savory–



Unto my Books–so good to turn

            Unto my Books–so good to turn–
            Far ends of tired Days–
            It half endears the Abstinence–
            And Pain–is missed–in Praise–

            As Flavors–cheer Retarded Guests
            With Banquettings to be–
            So Spices–stimulate the time
            Till my small Library–

            It may be Wilderness–without–
            Far feet of failing Men–
            But Holiday–excludes the night–
            And it is Bells–within–

            I thank these Kinsmen of the Shelf–
            Their Countenances Kid
            Enamor–in Prospective–
            And satisfy–obtained–



Victory comes late

            Victory comes late–
            And is held low to freezing lips–
            Too rapt with frost
            To take it–
            How sweet it would have tasted–
            Just a Drop–
            Was God so economical?
            His Table’s spread too high for Us–
            Unless We dine on tiptoe–
            Crumbs–fit such little mouths–
            Cherries–suit Robbins–
            The Eagle’s Golden Breakfast strangles–Them–
            God keep His Oath to Sparrows–
            Who of little Love–know how to starve–






  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this wonderful collection of poetry from Emily 🙂 She is one of my favorite poets, and I loved how pictures of her and her home were interspersed among the poems.

    Bud, thanks for making my day 🙂

    Comment by M. Shahin — December 1, 2006 @ 7:24 pm

  2. Hi M.

    I loved putting this one together, and am now very glad it found a true lover of Emily D.


    Comment by Bud Bloom — December 3, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

  3. beautiful.plz snd me some more

    Comment by jamil — November 7, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  4. Thanks for posting this. How ironic that she died in May. ‘Twas just this time…’ is beautiful. When the leaves turn crisp on the ground and winds blow them lightly like a chime, I get a yearning to traipse around graveyards.

    Comment by Micky — August 17, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  5. To whom it may concern:

    My name is Teri Matthews and I am doing a poetry project for my American Literature class. I would like to ask for your permission to use this picture, of Emily Dickinson, in my powerpoint presentation?

    Teri Matthews

    Comment by Teri Matthews — February 26, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  6. Hi Teri,

    Here are links to where the pictures are displayed:

    Northwest-Shoals Community College: English 101

    UNC Chapel Hill: Philip F. Gura: Emily Dickinson Photograph


    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — February 26, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  7. Also, Teri,

    There is a very interesting picture as a frontispiece that you can snatch from this book:

    Google Books: The Letters of Emily Dickinson 1845-1886

    I’m not sure of the picture’s origin, but it is a rendering of the girl on the left in the family portrait just before the poem “One Day is there of the Series” above.


    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — February 26, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  8. Reblogged this on THE OLD PROVERBIAL RECOVERY.

    Comment by nellibell49 — January 28, 2014 @ 8:52 am

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