Old School

On Emily Dickinson

The Soul selects her own Society

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I've known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —


This is one of ED's smartest or wisest poems.

Her insight tickles; it also encourages.

Even before I knew I was a poet,

Something was promising me that my choice, not

Only of whom but of what (beauty, art, poetry) to love would be valid; that however

Unclear most things were in my world,

Love would be clear and

Simple. And soulful. (Don't you love the s's in that first line?

Ever notice there are four of them? And how they slow the line up? Then

Look how the next line snaps shut!

Emily reproduces, rhythmically, the careful intentionality of selection and its


Then she brings politics into it, but sideways. Divinely,

"Soul" outvotes the opposition. Majority rules. Soul as majority? How improbable!

How painfully I remember, in childhood—and thereafter—always being in the minority.

Emily perhaps shared that experience. She didn't get mad, she got even.

Rejection can be fun, when your soul does the rejecting.

Of course, it's especially fun to imagine rejecting your social superiors.

Well, it is for me. But did Emily have social superiors?

No—but she did have some pompous men in her life.

Sweet and pretty fantasy to make them collectively kneel.

Open and shut case. And so feminine,

Capitalizing, for one's imagery, on feminine anatomy. Those valves!

I admire and enjoy the way in the

End, they turn impregnable as stone.

This is one of the many reasons I admire and love

You, Emily.

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