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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 10, 2015.
About this Poem 

“In the spring of 2014, a number of poets were invited by the Emily Dickinson Museum to each spend an hour in her bedroom, then being restored and not open to the public. The room was empty—the bed removed, each molding numbered and dated, with only a chair and little writing desk, on which a tiny basket held a facsimile draft of Dickinson’s ‘A chilly Peace infests the Grass.’ The visitors were encouraged to write a poem inspired by this experience. It took more than a year for my inspiration to finally arrive, in the form of a sonnet that incorporated every word of the first stanza of Dickinson’s poem.”
—Lloyd Schwartz

In Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom

A chilly light pervades the empty room
bringing neither its current nor former inhabitant peace.
Rather, its immaterial lingering infests
both the air inside and what we see of the grass
outside—brittle, brown, as if it wanted to avoid the sun.
Inside, the visitor must be respectful
and polite, evasive without actually telling lies.
Everything here seems hidden—is hidden—not
just the bricked-up chimney and plastered-over doorway. Any
clue—under the wide floorboards, behind the blocked entrance—
to the haunted chambers of a heart? Patches of verse, of
old wallpaper, the main street not yet a street. What industry
motivated those uncanny dashes—these shadows
still eluding our meager efforts to scrutinize.

Copyright © 2015 by Lloyd Schwartz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Lloyd Schwartz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz was born on November 29, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York.

by this poet


Every October it becomes important, no, necessary
to see the leaves turning, to be surrounded
by leaves turning; it's not just the symbolism,
to confront in the death of the year your death,
one blazing farewell appearance, though the irony 
isn't lost on you that nature is
I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends
In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment 

made me ache to call you—the only person I know 
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then 
not laugh, wondering what

collected in

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