Emily Dickinson in her own words
Striding to the edge of my property, leaving all that mutters and whines at me behind the mothering curtains of our two-storey Main Street mansion, I concealed myself behind a brake and some shrubs and stared into the pit — into the sky that stretched above the pit.
‘A Pit,’ I mused, ‘but Heaven over it.’
I got dizzy looking into the sky and had to grab onto a branch on the tree to keep from slipping into the pit. The branch I clung to for dear life. A Branch — and Earth under it, I chuckled to myself. The world spun, and swung, and was still. I released the blarney bark, yet sap there was upon my palm.
‘To dream,’ I cried, in ecstasy, ‘to sap the Prop / That holds my chances up.’
I pictured my chances: a hundred to zero that I could ever survive this pit if I fell in. Would I fall into the pit?
I tried to wipe the sap from my hand with a clump of leaves. It would not come off. I got some of it off, but there was a basic layer that stuck to the skin between the lines of the palm — between the place where my road split unto the very gate of the perilous, unspoken chance. I opened and closed my hand, watching the skin stick to skin. There was both exasperation and terror in my expression, I imagined, for soon there would be no skin left — I would just be bones and dust.
‘You f***ing shit Prop,’ I screamed, kicking at the branch, to which however not even my knee would reach. Then I caught sight of the pit again.
‘Ah! Pit!’ I exclaimed, clasping both hands to my slender perky bosom, gazing into the utter depths of it. ‘A Pit — with Heaven over it!’
I looked into the pit and tried to calculate how deep it was. From where I was standing behind the tree I thought it might be three, four feet deep. Placing my hand upon the trunk of tree — a slender, non-entity tree, with dead fig leaves out of a Bible of outrage and fruitless passion — I reached with some hesitation into the pit with one of my black shoes, kind of dangled there, almost losing my balance. I strained to touch the bottom with my toe, but could not.
Getting both feet back down, I backed up a step and sat my sweet ass down on the ground. Must be six feet deep, this pit, I mused. Beyond, above, around — askance, out of an eye, I saw the sky.
Then I asked myself who in God’s name had dug this pit. I looked over my shoulder with narrowed eye — saw the living room curtain move suspiciously at one corner, and be still.
‘Who dug thee, Pit? Ah, Pit!’ I moaned, kicking little clods of dirt over the edge with both feet going so that the pit made a scratchy little mini avalanche or slide into the bottom. Far, far to the bottom — I cocked an ear and heard the clods kick and bounce upon the bottom.
Next I took a stick and, wriggling forward on my belly until I got to the edge, I reached it down, down into the pit space. You would be terrified if you knew how deep ran the pit in our backyard, Susan, I hissed between clenched teeth. Fathoms down I reached — furlongs with stick in hand, yet bottom never felt.
Looking back I saw Susan peering out at me from behind one side of the house. I pretended not to see her — got up and brushed the grass and dust from my hard little body. I flexed one arm through my dress and pretended to kiss it — pursed my lips in full view of the house.
Clucking — bucking — death, Susan. Whose Doom to whom?
A Pit — a handy little Pit.
I turned and trotted back towards the porch with determination in eyes that had seen baby horses cut down by lightning — mama spiders cannibalized by their children — Susan’s head on a platter in a thousand fantasies.
She should have supper on by now, I guessed.
A Pit — but Heaven over it —
A Pit — but Heaven over it —
And Heaven beside, and Heaven abroad,
And yet a Pit —
With Heaven over it.
To stir would be to slip —
To look would be to drop —
To dream — to sap the Prop
That holds my chances up.
Ah! Pit! With Heaven over it!
The depth is all my thought —
I dare not ask my feet —
‘Twould start us where we sit
So straight you’d scarce suspect
It was a Pit — with fathoms under it —
Its Circuit just the same.
Seed — summer — tomb —
Whose Doom to whom?