Talking Back to Emily Dickinson
She’s such a sass with her Essential Oils –
are wrung – and her big-sister devilry,
the way she tells me love is the noose
every neck must slip.
I talk back to Emily,
and my throat tightens, my breath wrings
out like wet linens, and comes
undone in shades of magenta –
I tell her my sad loves
and she pours me
cups of violets and nods. She knows
the heart’s winch reels in
a tightrope stretched
not for faint–hearted feet.
She brings me into her confessional
and absolves me, saying
It is the gift of the Screw –
We sit up all night reading
letters of transformation.
We confide our tricks
of morning dew
and gossip diamonds
within that skew and lens
each spring’s debutante
blooms, how those rays shatter
sunrise into daggers.
Stooping as low as the otter’s window ~ Emily Dickinson
An image from Emily sent me back
to Monterey Bay and its floating,
sky-gazing otters, their paws clasped
so as not to drift away into vastness.
They reminded me of being cradled
in azures and violets on Anini Bay.
How the dawn sea reaching toward
the world’s farthest ends and I held hands
with the receding shoreline.
Just for a moment I let go,
to be otter-windowed, looking
down into the planet’s buried fire
as it pulsed fathoms below. I was rash
and lone over deep water.
The azures sank into my bones.
I swam home grateful
and have since then kept
a pocket of drift and a window full of far.
What a poet can learn
from ballet lessons
in lonely rooms
is aspiring to cloud shapes
and how the twist of her head
keeps her eye steady
on one point sharp
as an early evening star,
when all the world is spinning.
Or to ray out in lines of possibility,
a central question turning on one toe
until the right horizon
comes clear and to rest.
What a poet can learn
from brief solos before a mirror
is to see how dust on the glass
accepts the sunlight that glares,
softening its resistance
into a kiss back.
What a poet learns in ballet
is the power of repetition,
and to lean into music,
to dive into its endless waves.
And then to compose
herself in finishing the spin,
coming to stillness
after her solo phrase.
Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama, and the poetry collections Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, The Pedestal, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. The Renaissance Club, her time travel novel involving the great Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, came out in January 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing. Her fourth poetry collection, Arabesque, is forthcoming in August 2018 from FutureCycle Press.