Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes

October 24, 2007

I’m on a Billy Collins kick lately, so here’s an excerpt of one of my favorite Collins poems :

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer’s dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet.
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

(More: Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, by Billy Collins)

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