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Emily Poems

There’s a certain slant of light

Imagine the chandeliers, the candles

at moonlight cant, hedge twist –

portrait of a pale cry,

animal rondo, puffed and pouted –

The orchestra files from the pit,

first the flutes, then an oboe,

cleaned with an owl’s feather,

then several owls, struggling

with a guitar, a wheel of cheese,

the tiny bones and skulls –

They always leave because

they can see, they can sing in the

dark –

I had been reading Helen Vendler’s wonderful book, Emily Dickenson, Selected Poems and Commentaries, when I had the notion to have some conversations with them. I’d take a line and use it for a cantus firmus. What I came up with was miniatures, images –

the kinds of things you see after you have been dazzled by a bright light.

They took on a kind of form, ending with a single word. I believe I should call this form the clunk.

Some editors liked them – others seemed to disapprove. My correspondence with Miss Dickenson should be conducted in private they implied. So I took a number of them and chopped off the line I was referencing. Then I gave them new titles. Now they are secret, like the puzzle paintings in George Perec’s Life, A User’s Manual. And it was fun to find titles for them. Here is one I like especially:

Extract from a Shorter Poem

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