Monday, November 2, 2009

That sacred Closet when you sweep

That sacred Closet when you sweep--
Entitled "Memory"--
Select a reverential Broom--
And do it silently--

'Twill be a Labor of surprise--
Besides Identity
Of other Interlocutors
A probablity--

August the Dust of that Domain--
Unchallenged-- let it lie--
You cannot supercede itself,
But it can silence you.
(F 1385)

I believe that Dickinson kept her poems with the intent of publishing them someday, and I believe that she thought that in publication she might be able to continue to live through her work, continue to speak through poetry in a way that only she can. Memory was sacred to Dickinson, and her closeness to her family and the poetry that seems to so closely resemble her personal losses and triumphs only supports this conclusion.

It is no suprise that Dickinson's speaker describes memory as a "sacred closet" in disarray. Certainly our memories have no set order to them. Some things are near the surface, others buried deep, down under piles and piles. Some memories are useful and others are a distraction or impediment. The "labor of surprise" comes when one uncovers that memory that has been allocated to the back corner, dust-covered but not entirely forgotten.

For someone as unafraid of confrontation as Dickinson, it may surprise the reader to reach line ten in which the speaker warns "Unchallenged-- let it die", in reference the dust upon the memories. Perhaps this is because some memories, though briefly recalled and dusted off to be considered again, will only be quickly forgotten once more. On the other hand, the speaker could be implying that disturbing the dust upon these memories will only stir up problems or more work and that some things are better left alone. Again, Dickinson leaves much of the exact interpretation ambiguous, allowing her readers to draw their own conclusions that reflect their own selves and experiences.

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