Three letters to Emily Dickinson by Cindy Hunter Morgan
Editorial intern Jessica L. Parsons on today’s bonus shorts: Poet Cindy Hunter Morgan’s three letters to Emily Dickinson shift from the nitty gritty to the profound. Watch her second guess, and reconsider, with beautiful confidence.
This is my letter to the world—no—just to you. We can visit here without worrying about whether we’ve combed our hair or vacuumed. I’d vacuum more often if it were a quiet chore. I like those silent, cordless vacuums you sometimes see in restaurants. How do they work? People just push them back and forth—sometimes right beside your table while you’re eating. It would be a good tool for a spy. One time I dropped a French fry just to see if the little machine was up to the task. I felt like I was feeding a carnivorous plant. The bird must sing to earn the crumb, but the vacuum is delivered right to it.
More soon, Cindy
There’s a certain slant of light—well, you may know it: winter afternoons when you come out of the movie theater and it’s still light, and what you expected was darkness, and you thought you filled the day so perfectly with a film, and you don’t really want to fill it with anything else. You drive home. Maybe you empty the dishwasher. Maybe you kill a spider and do a load of laundry, but all you’re really doing is waiting for evening, though when it comes it’s too dark. It fills the closet and drapes itself over the couch and makes it almost impossible to do a jigsaw puzzle or sort blue socks from black socks. Then all you want is the day back.
Why is that, and why today—when darkness is what I waited for all day? When darkness is part of what I sought when I went to a movie in the afternoon?
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, and now I keep thinking about the casket—where it is right now—if it’s still with other memories in short-term storage or if it has traveled in a clean black hearse to its final resting place in long-term storage. Where is the hippocampus? I can’t find it. This morning I did yoga, which allowed me, during one of the more meditative poses, to travel into my brain—my body into my brain, self into self—kind of like turning a sock inside out and scrunching most of it into the toe, so what you wind up with is a little lump of a sock. I turned myself into a little lump until almost all of me was inside my head, which is rather like the toe of a sock. The brain is surprisingly well lit, and I found the dark hearse and followed it. I felt like I was PAC-MAN and the black hearse was one of the ghosts, and at any moment the hearse/ghost would turn and double back on me. I knew it would never turn blue and I would never be able to eat it, so it wasn’t exactly like PAC-MAN. Eventually I did want to eat something, so I stopped. Extricating yourself from your brain is sometimes tricky, but that’s also what yoga is for, though you have to know which poses tangle and which ones untangle.
As Ever, Cindy
Cindy Hunter Morgan is the author of a full-length poetry collection and two chapbooks. Harborless (Wayne State University Press) is a 2018 Michigan Notable Book and the winner of the 2017 Moveen Prize in Poetry. She writes regularly for Murder Ballad Monday, a blog devoted to the exploration of the murder ballad tradition in folk and popular music. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Journal of American Poetry, Tin House Online, Salamander, and West Branch. She taught creative writing at Michigan State University for many years and now works at the Michigan State University Library.