Picking Writers’ Brains

    I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable, — and then
There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.

– Emily Dickinson

My ninth grade English teacher planned a whole lesson around this poem. We actually did an entire unit on Emily Dickinson’s poetry and life. It’s one of the reasons why I became such a huge fan of this genre in the first place.

There’s something about this poem that’s stuck with me. The speaker in it is dying. She and her loved ones know she’s dying. They make all kinds of plans to smooth along the process.

Then she (the speaker) actually dies. What happens after that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It makes me wonder what Emily expected to happen after death. Her family attended a Congregationalist church, but I always got the impression that she had a mind of her own. Maybe she agreed with them. Maybe she didn’t.

I wish I could sit down with her and ask her what she really believed.

These are the things this writer thinks about when I’m sitting quietly in the corner. 😉

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