Prone to Periphrasis* * Emily Dickinson

Once, checking
My raveled sleeve of care,
I found a loose string
Hanging there.

A yarn had broken free
Of the weave
And was dangling down
From my work shirt sleeve.

I snapped it off
With a twist and a jerk,
Flicked it aside,
And hurried to work.

But returning that evening,
As I happened to pass,
That tiny string
Still lay in the grass.

This insignificant shred
Of cotton
That I’d cast adrift
And quite forgotten

Had now passed twice
Across my mind,
And I can’t put something
Like that behind.

The lonely mind
Is a terrible thing
Ensnared with ease
By a wisp of string,

And that night as I tossed
And turned in bed,
I couldn’t unthink
That tattered shred.

Like an anxious dog
That worries a bone,
That twice seen thread
Wouldn’t leave me alone.

And I dreamt that night
Of a little brown bird
Who wandered somehow
Into my yard,

And coming across
That piece of string,
Had scooped it up,
And taken to wing,

And flown high up
In the crux of a tree
Where only a man
In a dream could see,

And sewn that ribbon
Into the mix
Of a nest she was building
Of twigs and sticks,

And smoothed it with mud
To the fit of her breast,
In a seamless knit
And perfect nest.

And thus my yarn
Had found a weave
Far surpassing
My raveled sleeve

Where he’d help to nurture
The new young life
Of a little brown bird
And his lady wife.

For however the arc of Time
May curve,
Even the lowliest remnant
May serve.

And if that’s too maudlin,
Corny, or dreary,
It’s more human by far
Than most string theory.

But the eggs were laid
And the summer passed on,
And by September
The birds had flown.

Then all that winter
Through stormy weather,
That tight knit nest
Still hung together,

But in several seasons
Of wind and rain
Those sticks and twigs
Unwove again,

And bristled forth
All ragged and torn
Like a jagged disc
Or a crown of thorn,

Till brittle and broken,
It fell to the ground,
And my cotton remnant
Again hung down

On that lonely tree
Till it nearly fell...
But how it ended
I cannot tell.

With shame I relate
The dream failed there!
And I woke again
To my sleeve of care.

We rhyming dreamers
Should be ignored...
Blasphemers that muck
With the Sacred Word.

Like sadistic gods
From a foul Parnassus,
We rhymers... prone to
Periphrasis...

And beguiled by the hum
Of idle muses
To kill our heroes with
Strange abuses,

Create poor yarns
With roads to travel
Then wickedly let them
All unravel.

These hung out heroes, the Bard would say,
Are prey to our wretched sort;
As flies to wanton boys are they,
We kill them for our sport.

Then how much the worse
For my shred of cotton
Whose dream had no end
And was simply forgotten?

How worse than a world
Where you end up dead!
I dreamt up his story
But lost the thread.

And I hope the Creator
Who dreamt up me...
Though a useless
Remnant I may be...

Will knit me up
In a final weave,
Not leave me dangling
From a raveled sleeve,

Or worse,
Forsaken on a wretched tree!
Sweet Jesus!
Don’t do that to me.