Selections from Voices in the House

The View from Dickinson'sVoices in the House


Warts on their necks are not their fault,
no more than hearts of blue quartz.
Still it gives pleasure, from this high
cupola, the ledge fringed with flies,
to watch the wind push citizens around
like stalks of grain, lumpy heads
swaying over the ground they're stuck to.

No wonder one makes friends among the voiceless
until the click of the bat, fly-rasp,
the bee's sweet snores make opera
roll through panes the sunset sharpens.
How easy then to wait for the message,
to face the only trustable thing, the mountains,
with night so complete and death so friendly.



Mary, Queen of Scots


"His lips teased a path from neck to knee."
I read the words again. What lay between
was no man's land to me. I was sixteen.
Bothwell, at Holyrood, had worked his way

into the queen's apartment. With his glove
he slapped her face, then ripped her dress to shreds.
The heavy velvet, gold-encrusted threads
were nothing to a Scotsman hot for love.

I had to hold the book straight up while lying
on my back, the doctor said. My lung
was busted. I felt brave and good and young.
It hurt like hell. At least I wasn't dying,

and so I thought the prayerful delegation
from church could just as well go home and pray
for someone else, leaving me in the fray
where Bothwell, as they say, forgot his station.

The young queen trembled by the curtained bed,
treasures laid open to a wild man who
would make her let him do what he would do.
A mess of swarming images, my head.

There were no words for such a wordless trick.
I lay on my back. Nurses came in and took
my temperature and pried me from the book.
Mercury throbbed along the little stick.