Ah, Emily Dickinson. There is something so appealing and yet so elusive in her poetry. Just when I think I understand it, I realize there’s much more there than I saw at first glance. This poem about the absence of a loved one and the uncertainty of his return is one of my favorites. Van Dieman’s land is apparently another name for the island Tasmania which is now part of Australia. In any case, it is somewhere far away from where she is.
If you were coming in the fall,
I’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.
If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I’d count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.