When she died at 55 in May of 1886, Emily Dickinson’s white dress (the only colour she would wear) was tiny. About the size of a twelve-year-old child’s. Also tiny were the cloth packets, sewn up with twine, that were found hidden in her bedroom afterwards. Tightly bound with red and white thread, they contained more than 800 poems on leaves stitched together, or in loose fragments. While she lived, seven of her poems appeared in print, most likely without her consent. She’s now known to have written more than 1700. Unlike her diminutive frame and reclusive life, her poetry is vast in scope as in scale. It is wild, prolific, kinetic, staccato, aposeopetic. It is full of awe and magnitude, though often condensed to a few broken lines.
Split the Lark – and you'll find the Music –
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled –
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.
Loose the Flood – you shall find it patent –
Gush after Gush, reserved for you –
Scarlet Experiment! Sceptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?
This poem, quick and sharp, is a picture of largeness hidden in little. It’s also a lance, piercing scepticism that kills things to see inside them. For Emily, as for Christ the Bird, death loosed the flood, split the lark, and found the music.