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Comment 4 of 54, added on March 6th, 2009 at 9:35 AM.
I am alive -- I guess --
The Branches on my Hand
Are full of Morning Glory --
And at my finger's end --
The Carmine -- tingles warm --
And if I hold a Glass
Across my Mouth -- it blurs it --
Physician's -- proof of Breath --
The branches on her hand could be referring to the veins in her
hands...because then she says "And at my finger's end -- The Carmine --
tingles warm --". Carmine, being crimson red, could refer to the blood at
Comment 3 of 54, added on November 27th, 2007 at 12:07 PM.
This poem is interesting and to be honest I'm not entirely sure I
understand it properly. Which frustrates me. In many of Dickinson's poems
you get the sense of a blurring of the distinctions between death and life
- but whereas usually we're presented with a speaker who's already dead,
describing her own death and hinting at the possibility that she is still
in a sense 'living' somewhere else, here we have a figure who knows, from
an intellectual point of view, that she is still alive - knows it because
of the simple facts of the sense of touch, and the presence of breath on a
glass, but more fundamentally still, knows she must be alive simply because
she has not yet been through the experience of death.
A lot of people seem to think Dickinson was morbidly in love with death or
something, but I'm not so sure. I think she was certainly fascinated by it,
but simply because it was the one significant human experience which no one
can really explain or understand, because they'd have to die in order to.
She famously said 'my business is circumference' - if you imagine her at
the centre of a circle, with all significant human experience spanning out
around her, then death represents the line hemming it all in, which
Dickinson never manages to break through no matter how hard she tries.
Anyway, back to this poem - 4th stanza she visualises the idea of being
dead and people whispering by her cold body. Interestingly she refers to
herself, the corpse, as it - suggesting complete and total inanimacy.
Anyone who's seen a dead body will know just how utterly lifeless it really
does look - I know that's a pretty obvious thing to say but it really is
extraordinary how seeing a loved one in this changed state brings home the
reality of death unlike anything else can. There is nothing of vitality or
character left - it's just an inanimate object, not a person any more.
Which brings me on to the 5th stanza - Dickinson frequently speaks of the
grave as being a 'house', suggesting that even if she can't envisage her
speakers actually stepping in to heaven (she was a deeply disenchanted
person) she still sees them as existing in some sense, in or beyond the
grave. However, since the 4th stanza has just made it clear that a body is
merely an object, and it is that same body which now lies inside the grave,
the whole concept is reduced to the level of satire. In the nineteenth
century it was commonplace to see the grave as a domestic setting - the
existence of rural cemeteries which allowed families to fence in specific
areas for their loved ones rendered particular areas almost 'homely', and
this was a comfort to the bereaved, who could then imagine that they would
rejoin their loved ones in a domestic setting after death. But I think the
whole concept of faulse comfort made Dickinson deeply uneasy...
I'm running out of things to say...what I don't fully understand is the 1st
stanza, and the lines "The Branches on my Hand / Are full of Morning
Glory". If anyone reads this and can tell me what they think that means, it
would be appreciated.
Phew. Long comment.
Alison from United Kingdom
Comment 2 of 54, added on October 4th, 2005 at 5:45 PM.
This poem was really deep and emotional an it reads
about how us blacks struggled if you look at it that
from United States
Comment 1 of 54, added on August 25th, 2005 at 9:01 PM.
This poem describes most peoples lifes and how they are i love it
Jana from United States
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