In Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom

Lloyd Schwartz - 1941-

A chilly light pervades the empty room
bringing neither its current nor former inhabitant peace.
Rather, its immaterial lingering infests
both the air inside and what we see of the grass
outside—brittle, brown, as if it wanted to avoid the sun.
Inside, the visitor must be respectful
and polite, evasive without actually telling lies.
Everything here seems hidden—is hidden—not
just the bricked-up chimney and plastered-over doorway. Any
clue—under the wide floorboards, behind the blocked entrance—
to the haunted chambers of a heart? Patches of verse, of
old wallpaper, the main street not yet a street. What industry
motivated those uncanny dashes—these shadows
still eluding our meager efforts to scrutinize.

More by Lloyd Schwartz

A True Poem

I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.

Exactly.

Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.

Some of it might bring misery.

And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I want everyone to love me.

Still, I keep working on it.

Why?

Why do I keep working on it? 

Nobody will ever see it. 

Nobody will ever see it.

I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.

I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.

Leaves

                        1 

Every October it becomes important, no, necessary
to see the leaves turning, to be surrounded
by leaves turning; it's not just the symbolism,
to confront in the death of the year your death,
one blazing farewell appearance, though the irony 
isn't lost on you that nature is most seductive
when it's about to die, flaunting the dazzle of its 
incipient exit, an ending that at least so far 
the effects of human progress (pollution, acid rain)
have not yet frightened you enough to make you believe
is real; that is, you know this ending is a deception
because of course nature is always renewing itself—
        the trees don't die, they just pretend,
        go out in style, and return in style: a new style.





                        2 

Is it deliberate how far they make you go
especially if you live in the city to get far 
enough away from home to see not just trees 
but only trees? The boring highways, roadsigns, high 
speeds, 10-axle trucks passing you as if they were 
in an even greater hurry than you to look at leaves:
so you drive in terror for literal hours and it looks 
like rain, or snow, but it's probably just clouds
(too cloudy to see any color?) and you wonder, 
given the poverty of your memory, which road had the 
most color last year, but it doesn't matter since 
you're probably too late anyway, or too early—
        whichever road you take will be the wrong one
        and you've probably come all this way for nothing.






                        3 

You'll be driving along depressed when suddenly
a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through
and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably
won't last. But for a moment the whole world
comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—
red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermilion,
gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning. You're on fire. Your eyes are on fire.
It won't last, you don't want it to last. You 
can't stand any more. But you don't want it to stop. 
It's what you've come for. It's what you'll
come back for. It won't stay with you, but you'll 
        remember that it felt like nothing else you've felt
        or something you've felt that also didn't last.

Six Words


yes	
no
maybe
sometimes
always
never

Never?
Yes.
Always?
No.
Sometimes?
Maybe—

maybe 
never
sometimes.
Yes—
no
always:

always
maybe.
No—
never
yes.
Sometimes,

sometimes
(always)
yes.
Maybe
never . . .
No,	

no—
sometimes.
Never.
Always?
Maybe.
Yes—

yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

Related Poems

Besides the Autumn poets sing (131)

Besides the Autumn poets sing,	
A few prosaic days	
A little this side of the snow	
And that side of the Haze -	
  
A few incisive mornings -	        
A few Ascetic eves -	
Gone - Mr Bryant's "Golden Rod" -	
And Mr Thomson's "sheaves."	
  
Still, is the bustle in the brook -	
Sealed are the spicy valves -	        
Mesmeric fingers softly touch	
The eyes of many Elves -	
  
Perhaps a squirrel may remain -	
My sentiments to share -
Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind -        
Thy windy will to bear!