After Emily

This poem was inspired by Emily Dickinson’s famous lines: “I can wade grief, /Whole pools of it, /I’m used to that. /But the least push of joy /Breaks up my feet, /And I tip—drunken.”
I re-envisioned her sentiment in my own words.


I am become
a connoisseur of grief
noting each day’s flavors
and bouquet

seeing how sorrow’s currents
settle out
like grades of oil
light – sweet – crude

I am a cartographer
of mourning’s valleys
its desert mesas
and its swamps

an herbalist
skilled at infusions
of melancholia –
tristesse –

here I know my way blindfolded
arms tied behind me
like the back of my hand
even in my sleep

and if a sun ray
sharp and white
pierced my window
it would sear

my retinas
unused to light
my skin
blistered by air

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