I, and Silence…

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: I don’t make unwise decisions. They make me.


I spent last week in a cabin in the high north, doing everything I could to avoid communing with the vast vacancy of nature. Boating. Jet-skiing. Getting hammered listening to Godsmack. Teaching my daughter how to swim.

Marvelling at her laughter was the closest I got to Nature, I’m sure.

This week is a holiday week as well, so in lieu of anything ‘substantial,’ I thought I would post my favourite Emily Dickinson poem…


I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro,

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –


And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My Mind was going numb –


And then I heard them lift a Box,

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again.

Then Space – began to toll,


As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange

Race, Wrecked, solitary, here –


And then a Plank in Reason, broke

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –


This is the third ‘official’ version. It’s interesting to note that in the original she used ‘Soul’ to replace ‘Brain’ (which she had crossed out) in the third stanza.

“I Felt a Funeral” is probably the first poem that made me physically dizzy for reading it. As a first-year undergrad it literally owned me in a way very few instances of language ever have. Back then it was the image of plunging through worlds in reason’s broken wake that most struck me. In fact, ‘a plank in reason broke’ has been a kind of solitary shorthand for me ever since, something my gut brain offers up whenever I witness something tragic or just plain crazy.

Once I began pondering consciousness more intently it became a catechism proper, something I used to remind myself that no one knew what the fuck they were talking about, period. I often imagine that I can crawl into her headspace as she was writing this, even though I know this a conceit that every reader suffers thinking that those fragments that speak to them are due to some ethereal correspondance of souls. Ever since discovering the way depression allows us to see past a number of self-congratulatory filters – ever since discovering that happiness turns on delusion – I’ve come to think of Dickinson as a kind of phenomenologist of the ‘nooliminal,’ as someone gnawing on the contradictory iron that bars our cage.

As much prophet as poet.

So, given that these are the most indolent days of summer, I thought I would offer this up, and invite anyone with similar ‘keystone’ poems or prose passages to post them here for others to laze about and contemplate. I know that more than me and Silence make up this this strange race…