Can you distinguish which one?

“I Died for Beauty”
By Emily Dickinson

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth,—the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms.
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.


My reflections
I start with a question: Why did Dickinson started with death? Truth and Beauty could be 2 kinsmen or kinswomen sitting side by side on a park bench.
Or they could be jogging or walking on a path. One answer is Death is a mystery and Dickinson considered Truth and Beauty mysteries. And mystery is an eternal question which we can study and learn until death.

Mystery invites answers. Dickinson began the thread: “The two are one”. Truth and Beauty are symmetrical and mirror copy of each other. I have a link about Symmetry. link:
She did not define Truth or Beauty and left definition for the readers.

What is Beauty? For me, Beauty is purity and harmony. What is Truth?
Truth is integrity and permanence. Because they are mirror image or reflection of each we can interchange the anwers.

Beauty and Truth may not demand answers but clarification. Should I look for meanings? Should I look for examples?

If I look for meaning, Beauty and Truth lead me to God. God is permanence and perfection.

If I look for examples, Beauty and Truth lead me to Love. Love is purity and integrity.

I think Emily Dickinson asked parallel question: Would you die for love? Would you be true to yourself and follow your art (or heart) and not the herd?

Would you die for God? For your faith? Would you die for your country?
Would you die for your principles?

These are eternal questions, we can think and write about them “until the moss had reached our lips” we will not have exhausted the answers and they will remain undistinguishable from each other, their names both covered with moss.

Maybe Dickinson was also reminding us of time. Have you declared your love to someone you love? Have you thought about God? Sometimes time ends abruptly.

note: I’m taking an eCourse, Ten Premodern Poems by Women, through Stanford University

against forgetting

Experience grows from series of sentences, like small steps of a dance,
tiny noises inside the burrows under the earth
small creatures ruminating in their hideaways
early Christians hiding in underground cities in Cappadocia
celebrating their meetings breaking bread and enthusiasm
bold spirits to their calling
unseen honoring the unseen
faithful to the word and promise
voices of prayers while walking, kneeling, sitting
sounds of beads and chants
or simply silent.

Experience is like memories of writing a book, monologues, essays
remembrance of creation, beginnings
clarifying a question, living the doubts
will the angels hear me, cries Rilke
sometimes they are whisperings to yourself
while death flowers beside you
you march against pain, time, forgetting
the voices are too precious,too important.

note: I’m reading book of poetry, Against Forgetting, Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forché

Be not afraid


My reflections and what I learned

Forgiveness can conquer evil and answers to a “noble reason.” Prospero, deprived of Dukedom and he and his daughter, Miranda, were driven out of Milan, “hoisted” unto the sea, “hurried us aboard a bark…not rigg’d, nor tackle, sail, or mast, “ to die in the sea. They suffered humiliation, dishonor and hard life and almost death. Prospero possessed the virtue to forgave his brothers for their betrayal. Prospero gave them his tender affections,“the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.” .

A child should not be a burden. Miranda “saved” him and her, “Thou didst smile, infused with a fortitude from heaven.” That smile gave Prospero the strength or divine will for survival and lived a life in the island attending to all their difficulties and necessities.

Gratitude. Prospero expressed his gratitude to Gonzalo for his goodness, his “charity”. Gratitude to divine “Providence” for saving them at sea and bringing them to the island. He expressed to Ariel and even to Caliban for his help in the house, “make our fire fetch our wood, serves in offices that profit us.”. Gratitude to Miranda. Prosper also has the magnanimity to admit his failings that led to his being overthrown as Duke of Milan.

Freedom is a gift. In the end there should be no slaves no matter how much they owe you.” Thous shalt be free,” prosper told Ariel. And to Caliban, “my pardon.”

I learned about transformation of the different people, “characters.” Caliban was transformed, “I’ll be wise hereafter and seek for Grace.” And Prospero, a tyrant, became kind and forgiving. In all the plays from Romeo and Juliet to the Tempest, transformation is one of the themes.

Be not afraid:

“Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again. “

I learned that spirits, muses, “noises” are real and could visit me anytime. They stir, nudge, needle creativity, bring insights, inspiration, sparks of imagination.

I learned that the art of story telling has to be experienced and has “to please”, “to enchant” as if blessed by the “Spirits.” In the end the writer asks forgiveness from his readers if he fails in his craft to please, to enchant. “Let your indulgence set me free.”

note: The Tempest is the last play in my eCourse, Shakespeare in the Community, through the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

what do you see

A shepherdess holding
with both hands a stick behind her back
looking back at you as if asking a question, a curiosity
then you see the young peasant girl in blue skirt,
black top and white scarf
you feel a melancholic power
like when you walk into the forest
with trees as tall as forever
or when you hear ancient songs
that rhyme with your breathing
before you go to sleep.

Step back and look again at the painting
a peasant girl holding a stick, holding it like a staff
her face in profile, her vision is faraway,
faraway in the field or in the constellations.

note: The I saw the painting: The Young Shepherdess by William Bouguereau at the Museum of Art in San Diego years ago.
The other painting: French Peasant Girl by Frederick Childe Hassam, I saw only recently in the internet:

what’s next?

While looking for a misplaced book I found another
start all over again like trying a new mathematical solution
unsure and delayed with many erasures
long semtences with lots of punctuations and nuances
one of the stories is buried somewhere
one departure leaves a void, pain and absence
the search is really not for a book but for a new love
a serendepity of opposite tastes that harmonize
thorns are never a deterrence in picking a rose
And you think I will not enjoy operas.