Thank You, T. S. Eliot; The Scalping of Emily Dickinson


Thank You, T. S. Eliot

After her funeral you found you’d lost a black earring.
She who was barely known to you had died. The thing
had been yours, it seemed, forever. You recalled
buying it, wearing it through decades. What appalled
you was the grief—how much you could mourn
an onyx speck, the size of a small mole. The turn
our thoughts can take, suddenly, to our own ends,
and really not so suddenly when, one by one, friends
or their beloveds, die. Maybe it fell to the ground
when removing your double mask against contagion.
Safe in the car, alone, the other mourners nowhere near,
your fingers brushed the tip of the lobe of an ear
and there it wasn’t. Gone. By then they had spread
her ashes over the sea foam. All the words they’d said
about her flung to the winds. You taste the salt spray,
hear the foghorn now off the coast of Monterey
though you hadn’t joined them on the boat, a ritual
not yours to share, nor later the traditional
meal after, the one funeral directors call a “repast”
when they make the invitation. People will laugh
during such a feast, if gently, at the relief of uncoiling
from mourning. Meanwhile, the Pacific is roiling
beneath her dust. Somewhere your earring on the earth
takes the trip from birth to death, death to birth.

The Scalping of Emily Dickinson

The boy poets stole a lock of her hair
because they couldn’t tame her,
couldn’t get past “spinster”
or the love that had changed her.
This was how they thought they could keep her:
very well in a box on a shelf—
their kind of mischief-making
trickery, like their own quaint
rhymes, their Ouija games. But she
eluded them, veering
slantwise, a Sappho nimbler
than all of them, darting
into a wilderness of her own
making. And no one,
not one of them to this day,
has been able to catch her.