Poem that makes me think – I cannot live with you, Emily Dickinson


I cannot live with you

cannot live with you,
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to,
Putting up
Our life, his porcelain,
Like a cup

Discarded of the housewife,
Quaint or broken;
A newer Sevres pleases,
Old ones crack.

I could not die with you,
For one must wait
To shut the other’s gaze down,
You could not.

And I, could I stand by
And see you freeze,
Without my right of frost,
Death’s privilege?

Nor could I rise with you,
Because your face
Would put out Jesus’.
That new grace

Glow plain and foreign
On my homesick eye,
Except that you, than he
Shone closer by.


I am so far from poetry expert that at times I’m not sure I can even spell the word stanza. However. Emily Dickinson has definitely become a poety that has grown on me. Normally I shy away from works of hers that, at least to my wonky eye, have a lot of religious undertones or religion blatantly throughout. This one though, it is more about the conflict I feel coming from the poem. That weaving of the juxtaposing things the speaker seems to want in their lives that they can’t have all at once, or even at all – that a choice needs to be made somehow. It feels like an internal conflict verbalised, and even if this specific scenario is not one I can relate to, it’s a comfort to hear such a thing out loud.


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