Wednesday, February 11, 2015




______ WE GROW ACCUSTOMED to the DARK ______

If I had the right –– or the temerity –– to give this poem a name, I would call it “To Those Left Behind.” Emily Dickinson never gave titles to her poems, they are always identified by simply the first line.

We think often of the brave men horribly killed in battle, but too little attention has been paid –– I feel –– to the widows and orphans, mothers, fathers, younger siblings and close friends forced to suffer the pain of losing a loved one, a helpmate, a guide, and a companion.

After all, for the dead it is over –– their suffering, one would hope, is at an end. Those left behind, however, must somehow carry on and find find new purpose in living. This poem, I feel, addresses their situation eloquently.


We grow accustomed to the Dark ––
When Light is put away ––
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye ––

A Moment –– We uncertain step
For newness of the night ––
Then –– fit our Vision to the Dark –– 
And meet the Road –– erect –– 

And so of larger –– Darknesses ––
Those Evenings of the Brain ––
When not a Moon disclose a sign ––
Or Star –– come out –– within ––

The Bravest –– grope a little ––
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead ––
But as they learn to see ––

Either the Darkness alters ––
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight ––
And Life steps almost straight.

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)



4 comments:

  1. Loss of a loved one in battle is one kind of darkness.

    But Emily also mentions this kind of darkness, a darkness I know only too well now that our beloved neighbors of nearly 40 years have moved away with hardly a word since their move in October 2013:

    when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
    To witness her Good bye
    .

    That particular grief has been on my heart lately, and I fear that the next time we'll see our former neighbors is at the funeral of either the husband or the wife.

    Life itself is a battle, IMO.

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  2. It's funny, reading this I thought of an old friend of mine, one I haven't been able to find for a while (another darkness). Starting when he was young, he found himself working at night, graveyard shifts. As the years went by he continued on that schedule. I used to warn him that it wasn't healthy, physically, and perhaps explained his difficulty with maintaining healthy, stable, long-lasting relationships. It made for a conveniently wide-awake rock bassist, I suppose, but not a husband or a father. He became that "almost straight" posture in the darkness that seemed his preference. But you can't really mix the darkness and the light.

    JMJ

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    Replies
    1. An interesting,genuinely thoughtful response to Emily's poem, Jersey. Thank you!

      Delete

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