Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Emily Dickinson

What does it mean when I read an Emily Dickinson poem that I could have sworn was one I wrote in Junior High?

If I can stop one heart from breaking, 
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

I'm quite serious. As I read this in the book of poetry I recently bought my 11-year-old, I remembered it overwhelmingly and could have sworn it was one of the many poems I scrawled onto scraps of paper during seventh grade. I was quite surprised when I saw Ms. Dickinson listed as the author. Presumably she didn't steal my work, but I was still taken aback.

I suppose the fact that the poem reads "unto his nest again" instead of "into her nest again" should have been my first clue that the poem was Emily's, and not mine. Clearly, however, she and I share a certain spirit. (No surprise to anyone who knows me - right, Megan?) And I must say that it's healthier for me to focus on this poem instead of I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, which was my particular poetic obsession during college.

Nevertheless - I tip my hat to the Lady in White and her poetry. It took me almost four decades to come back to this poem and recognize that it summarizes my life purpose perfectly.

1 comment:

Megan Willome said...

I think the choice of this particular poem by Dickinson shows a zest for life. After all, you aren't dead yet!