“‘It is finished’ can never be said of us,” Emily Dickinson once wrote, and certainly there is nothing finished about Emily Dickinson. Since her death in 1886, an army of poets, playwrights, biographers, filmmakers, cartoonists, editors, and literary gumshoes have celebrated her singular, heart-stopping poems while trying to decide what her intentions must have been and how we should read her.
The first time I heard your heartbeat, you were a green grape. You’d already been a poppy seed, a lentil, a blueberry, a kidney bean. The technician pressed a monitor to my abdomen in late January and the sound of running horses filled the room. That’s what I heard first: galloping, the hooves of so many wild horses and not your tiny grape heart. You were equine because I couldn’t describe the strange wonder of hearing you alive within me for the first time. Our baby app said you were the size of a single grape.
Yet the novel isn’t really about death, one learns while negotiating its branching paths. It’s about marriage. The persistence of relationships. For whatever direction the Wilkinsons’ lives take, or history takes, they always end up together, chattering, spatting and laughing, drinks in hand. It’s a charming notion, circuitously stated: When two become one, they need never part again.
like tires at a checkpoint,
alone I choke,
alone I pollute the air.