When I first started blogging, I wanted to augment my work here with a blog devoted to Emily Dickinson, a deeply spiritual poet with whom I find a friendly resonance. I wanted to call my site “An Admiring Blog,” a take on a line from Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody, Who Are You?” But the name was already taken. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from musing on her work. I wrote this poem with Dickinson’s “The Mighty Merchant” in mind:
Choose your cross.
Pick the size and shape.
Mull over wood grains.
Perhaps I can help?
Peter, you know, chose to go feet-first.
Some saints I know like their crosses
But don’t let me sway you.
Your choice should be tempered
by the size of your soul.
There are those who carry mahogany
as lightly as balsa,
others with twined sticks, twigs really,
who bend under the weight
like make-believe martyrs.
Let me tell you a secret:
You will always choose the cross you know.
Its contours are familiar, the upright beam
settles easily between your shoulder blades.
Oh, you claim to hate it,
but over the years you’ve learned
to heft its weight. A new cross
can be wily — green wood
can bend and wriggle like a viper
you only thought you understood.
All crosses are vouchsafed,
guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Don’t fret, dear Consumer!
You’ll scarcely notice:
A carpenter I know
will take an end.
He has experience with these things.
You have only to ask.