Life, After

I’ve been working on a strange little story/prose poem called “Life, After.” It all stems from an article in The Writer’s Chronicle titled The Afterlife of Henry James. A friend and I both wrote poems (mine was in prose because I’m so very poetic) and once I did that, other writers, mostly dead, needed a little exploration in the same vein. Henry James, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Charles Bukowski, James Joyce, The Russians (yes, I know… they are a varied group, but for the sake of the poem, I treat them as one), David Foster Wallace, and me (I worried that it might be a bit presumptuous to include myself in this list, but then I thought, what the hell, it’s my poem, right?). I’ve quite enjoyed writing this piece. I posted an early draft of the Henry James post a few weeks ago. Here, for another taste, is:

Emily Dickinson

It is a small comfortable room, always new—her skin soft, transparent, all Life—and Death, her lover, now tamed—blossoming in a rich tincture of peony and sparrow’s tuft—frost glistens on the stones piled and stacked in the corners of this lodging, this apartment of a Nominated Heart, where the dim light of Moon—Lo’, wrinkling the landscape—and Joyous Dawn warm the Sweet Mountains anon and seen only through glass Rippled and Cross-stitched with Age—Fie!, that old Foe—and only in specific amounts and at specific times, when the Eyes have not failed nor the other Senses, the gifts that balance upright the physical body and tremor-filled Soul. She laughs often and heartily at her old self, a Laugh so unexpected that passersby on the street stop and gaze into the window and laugh with her, lost in Mirth—that old self caught up in the Battle, floorboards counted and paced and chair-back gripped and chair adjusted and so too the dresser and bed and the measurements of the room ingrained, the Soles of her feet buffing clean the clutter of Dust and the clattering of her silly lines! The pen is still upright, the inkwell brimming, but the papers now lay flat, smoothed every so often as she leans against warm memories. But to organize a poem? How tedious! Besides, she cannot pick up the pen—her fingers pass through its casing and the words dormant in the ink are alive in her, pulsing through her veins, the Blood of Hallowed names—but she would not write even if she could. Amazing, she thinks, how long I labored to script the sounds, a lifetime moiled in my own dusky stanzas, devoted to the Outside. Here, at last, all the words are present, all Ordered without Order, and I their gentle container.

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