This is the Hour of Lead

I remember a quiet morning in Amherst 10 years ago, sitting with my mother on Emily Dickinson’s stoop, wondering what had transpired behind those walls as she wrote her nearly 1,800 poems. Dickinson is one of the first poets I read–and truly loved–and tonight these verses speak to me like never before.

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes–”

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –