First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.
Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.
You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.
The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.
Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.
What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.
And, the riposte by Conrad:
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 2010 22:08:17 -0400
From: CA Conrad
Subject: lesbians don't want...
...to be fucked by Billy Collins!
SOMEONE PLEASE TELL HIM THIS!
A dear friend of mine who knows how much I LOVE the poetry of Emily Dickinson called me today to tell me that Terry Gross was interviewing someone about Dickinson's poems. So I tuned into NPR and instantly cringed at the voice of Billy Collins (the Phil Collins of poetry!)!
What ANGERED me most was when they were discussing her possible sexual preference(s). And he said, HE ACTUALLY SAID, that whether she was a lesbian or not, HE was going to put to rest this argument with HIS poem. Which he then read. It's called UNDRESSING EMILY DICKINSON, and it's about wanting to FUCK HER, and how she sighs and makes little sounds in between his removing various items of clothing from her body.
Whether she was a lesbian or not, it's pretty clear to me that THAT very issue turned him on enough to write his sexual fantasy of putting his poet laureate prick inside her!
I VOMIT FOR YOU EMILY
Not only that, if you listen to this show PLEASE NOTE how he makes such a big deal about how irrelevant her biography is. BUT THEN GOES AHEAD AND SHOWS HOW IMPORTANT HER BIOGRAPHY ACTUALLY IS TO HIM THAT HE WANTS TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT (SO TO SPEAK!)!
Has this dude NEVER heard of Susan Howe's MY EMILY DICKINSON by the way? Because his excessively reductive view of her poems makes me think he needs to read Howe.
When I win the lottery I'm buying Susan Howe's MY EMILY DICKINSON for every single library in the world! And if they REFUSE TO TAKE IT, I'll just put in on the shelf MYSELF!
May Emily Dickinson's ghost exact REVENGE on Billy Collins! Dear Emily, I'm writing a poem called UNDRESSING BILLY COLLINS, to see how he likes gay sex! I'll let you know how it goes!