emily dickinson

I have only memorized one poem in my life, and it is I’m Nobody! Who Are You? something or other, by Emily Dickinson. I had to look up the official title and I am a bit embarrassed by the outdated choice of punctuation, but I will let that go, for now, although the entire reason I felt inclined to write “something or other” after the name of the title, was you wouldn’t think I supported those clearly bothersome punctuation choices.  Anyway, I remember specifically trying to memorize this poem from my twenty-pound reading anthology as I sat in class in maybe 5th grade (but just as probably before or after), and it has been in my memory ever since, even as the prayers I was forced to memorize have faded away. I don’t think I particularly liked the poem  – that wasn’t my reason for the rote memorization – I more felt that it would be important to have at least one poem internalized. I wanted to be able to recall the words that someone else wrote, and this poem, that I was already reading for class, was short enough to accomplish that without all that much effort.

I think I was always drawn to poetry, but a lot of what I was exposed to early on was flowery-fake language of forced-scheme rhymes that I couldn’t and didn’t want to relate to or understand. But I am nobody, and who are you? Are you nobody too? Then there’s a pair of us, don’t tell, they’d banish us, you know. That I could relate to. That was speaking to me. Directly.  I felt like a girl my own age was letting me in on a secret of hers, and no, I wouldn’t tell, because I understood.  Maybe I am nobody too – it’s quite possible – and it is dreary to be somebody, I think, although I don’t know how it is public like a frog. But I suppose that is fair enough since I do like the idea of telling your name (the livelong June) to an admiring bog, and frog rhymes with bog, so that must be correct. I wouldn’t mind going unknown either, Emily, but I have to say, I am still misunderstanding that bit about the publicity of frogs.

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