Emily’s Electrical Absence

Frances Leviston

I hope you may have an electrical absence, as life never loses its startlingness, however assailed.

Emily Dickinson, letter to J.K. Chickering, autumn 1882


Technologies – are not abrupt –
Though Pole-vaults may appear –
The lever bends a longer spell
Than Morals – in a Fire

And clatters off the Bar before
It ever clears the way –
And makes the Mass – astonished – cheer
A bruised inverted Thigh


Inwards all things pressured go –
Sponges – drop their Tents –
The Mirandising Brain retreats
From risk to precedent –

Blades by Hammers flattened out
Swell around the Blows
Like proving Bread – but if they’re stopped
All Forces pass for Screws


Had Angels Bones – they would of Quartz
Be slenderly compiled –
And none would know what Minerals
Musculature concealed –

What cloudy Pins – what lambent Plates
Moved them to and fro
And gave them – Heartless – energy
To Trees with Feathers plough –

But if you took an Angel’s Hand
And pressed in Friendship’s Name –
Catastrophe! – a Lightning Strike
Would Crystallise your Arm