In Her Letters, Emily Dickinson Would Sometimes Refer to Death as Michigan

by Charlie Clark

It was for closure that I came down into the valley to see the thing you were.

~

The whole time I tried to think of flowers, but never settled on a single type.

~

I read somewhere after, or heard someone say, or maybe just decided for myself:

Because it is a sloppy thing, in grief we give ourselves permission to be both greedy and indiscrete in
ways we might not understand or like.

And yet we do it, loudly and a lot.

~

Greedy and indiscrete like a priest who after a lifetime of service retires by making his home in the
village square and shouting the confessed sins of every passerby.

~

When word came, Sasha and I were in bed meowing at each other and watching winter morning
light play upon the one writhing whisker of the catfish in the Teraoka print she’d taped up on the
wall,

and the few fine bristles sprouting from the pit of the arm of the girl so languidly wrapped around
the fish amid the prim white whips of the waves,

and how the sun made both their tendrils come alive and shine.

~

In the silence after, while I was online buying tickets,

Sasha mentioned how, in her letters, Emily Dickinson would sometimes refer to death as Michigan.

Then said she’d always wanted to get that fact into a poem, but had yet to find the proper entry.

~

On the plane I listened to John Fahey’s The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death on repeat and the only
thing I didn’t hear in his guitar was death, for which I was thankful,

it being mostly impossible for me to watch from inside a plane as its wings cut through the bright
carpet of the clouds and think of anything but death.

~

Except maybe heaven.

~

Then, Michigan.

~

A rushing that took hours to complete.

~

In descent the world reduced to a paltry few particulars yet still so vague.

~

All the usual darkness, the wood fire droning formally, quiet piles of rugs and snow.

~

And bunches, bunches of white daisies.

~

Seeing you, rouged, uncanny, blue, I found you were not what you were.

~

Nothing except a strangeness in the room about which there was nothing we could do.


Read Charlie Clark’s “What the Dying Said to Me in the Dream Where I Became the Dying”

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