The Thing with Feathers

Emily’s “thing with feathers” sings a tune “without the words.  She makes a point of that, setting the phrase off with one of her famous dashes–so often a sign that she’s dropping into a slightly deeper, more ambiguous place of momentary reconsideration.  No words would seem either a condition of abject limitation for a poet whose words are her wellspring, or, ironically, a condition of freedom from what Eliot called “the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings.”  Hope, in either case, appears to be a state that defies, or doesn’t need, explanation, rationalization, or even description.  We don’t need, she suggests, to philosophize or theologize about it.  As a recent movie title puts it (and let us try to suspend the sexy images of Sandra Bullock that come to mind) “hope floats.”  It is a lightness of being.  And perhaps it is pure gift.  Perhaps, like poems to a poet, it just “comes,” not because of, but despite, our desperate summonings, like the angel who shows up to help, always to offer an invitation to something new, always having to begin the invitation with “Be not afraid.”

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