Tell All the Truth (Dickinson) / Heart to Heart in Death’s Rumble


(An Ars Poetica, from a great practitioner)


Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
Emily Dickinson


A philosopher once I knew
was sitting where the dark dark blue
hits the deeper purple

“I know” he said between pipe puffs
“the rings of Saturn wear white cuffs”
and winked a dimple

“But at the edge where bright things die
and dark things come to birth why I
can’t know but must stay simple”

He trailed his hand in the swirling brine
as the moon came out with its pale shoeshine
and the air like a thimble

“You see” he said and he seemed quite grim
“all life hangs out on a jungle gym
before taking a tumble

I want to be there when it happens” he said
“but I also want to take to my bed
and stay out of trouble”

Just then a blade from an unknown airborne
something or other fell straight down on that forlorn
fellow and stopped his gabble

His self split in two with a perfect slice
which severed his argument so don’t think twice
about living in a bubble

His spirit shook hands with his body for the last time
and floated free to the land where near rhyme
chimes with all pure things except rubble

Now see each thing in its own bright space
reflecting to us the original Face
as something true and supple

“No second Face” means all is well
with flowering Garden and steaming hell
making opposite ripples

The philosopher’s musings continue to meander
through daffodils and coriander
beyond the querulous gamble

What we might not know in this life – gents –
becomes crystal clear when we pass beyond sense
heart to heart in death’s rumble

2/7/2006 (from Coattails of the Saint)

Categories: Poems