after Allen Ginsburg
Sometimes I think of you, Emily Dickinson, when I am standing in the pouring rain,
feeling my blouse cling to my back, my hair drip into my eyes.
Sometimes I think of you while eating potato chips, and your starvation.
Sometimes I think of you when I see the oven bird make her unobtrusive rounds
on the ground outside my kitchen window.
I am so excited to see her there that she would never understand.
In my hungry numbness, and searching for answers, I drove onto the Beltway, dreaming of your
What flashing lights! What cutting in! Tractor trailers sliding by me on the left!
Lanes full of vehicles built for snow! Business women talking on cell phones in their black sedans... and you, May Sarton, what were you doing in the moving van?
O Emily Dickinson, I am on my way to the Carmelite cloister
where I feel your spirit,
where I glimpse your thin shoulders heaving
at the towhee in the birch,
where I hear you imitate the love song of the house wren,
so lush compared to your spare human nouns.
I brave the Beltway to go there
and you are with me in the passenger seat,
listening with me to the radio, to the songs of my youth.
Come on baby light my fire.
Why do fools fall in love?
I see you there in the passenger seat, gripping the dashboard,
surrounded by a fiery mist.
On the way to your grave in the meadow,
Sue spoke of your treasures of fruit and flower.
She said you sat in the light of your own fire.
She said, so well you knew your chemistries, that
your swift poetic rapture was like the long glistening note of a bird
one hears in the June woods at high noon but can never see.
Sit beside me here in the traffic, Emily Dickinson,
and tell me about your selections.
Who did you watch as they carried your small body out to the hill
in May covered with flowers?
It is October as we ride the Beltway in the glaring morning sun.
Emily Dickinson, what do you say about the angry red cars,
the roaring black four wheel drives that loom behind me?
What do you say about this walled city of streaming metal
and gas fired speed?
Will the flickering brake lights
make you sink to the floor of the car, sick with vertigo?
Will the hissing of rubber on asphalt, the tumult of a thousand engines
make you want to disappear behind the tan concrete walls?
Will we drive all day in this exhausted maze?
We’ll both be burned.
Will we reach Carmel, and stroll in the lost country of prayer?
Oh, Emily, frail and sherry-eyed, lonely scribbler,
what relief did you have when the carriage stopped for you?