Essay · Mental Health · Rudimentary Philosophy

Inkwell Reflections for Miss Dickinson

White dress white dress how softly compressed prismatic coordinates printed over a spectrum of threads matching sheets covering the little table and chairs in the upper room of consciousness. White—no color or all the colors at once? All the bright or all the dark the stark dark hair and the pale face pale arms pale legs—another—an other—study in contrast!

Ah, but what does she do with herself behind the slightly cracked door of the room up on the second floor?

On the white dress there are wrinkles. Brushing the dark threads from her eyes’ line she feels in their movement a scalp thirsty for moisture so much so it sprinkles itself onto the oak slab planted before her. Itch it she does not for hands are occupied. The hands that move in a deft and hasty elegance.

What does she do?

She writes. Fluttering hand restless for thicker callouses numbed to the cradle of a pen held years in the familiar crook eroded smoother than the stones in the brook kept hushed beyond a pane of glass. The pen a friend enacted upon by a lightning shot of nerves their unfiltered translation from a brain brewing in murk—yet abundant, alert—to slender neck past untouched chest out pointed shoulder—bony, mortal—shot out to digits knuckled pinkish from hours of poetic fits the spotted spittle drip watercolors on leaves abolishing an inherent blankness.

To whom does she write?

Not “to whom,” but for. She writes for the deep! She writes to the deep! The deep sinking inkwell eyes pool and reflect an omega to the ecosystematic alpha—the symphony composed and conducted for the captive audience she has herself become—unless we count the faceless characters who receive in the mail glistening webbings of words firmed by symbolic structure first appearing so frail.

She writes for no one! For the no one bearing a name belonging to her—the convergence of poet and speaker and reader who ends and begins above the set down pen, of letters four and ten all of which might signify her questioning, her ken—she writes for her, Miss Emily Dickinson.

They would not let Emily Dickinson be Emily Dickinson today. Would they not?

A woman in white who writes constantly about life and absolution and death and dismay and all the participants of interpretation within and without her and within and without us, glimpsing those participants as players in a grand human drama, revealing the roughest edges and manifested under unanswered, non-formulaic, unrefined, and disorderly means and not for nothing—or not for all?—while cooped up—voluntarily mind you!—in her bedroom for months on end? No, my friend, they wouldn’t let it stand!

What would they do?

Twice-weekly regimens of group therapy and once a week sit-downs with a holy DSM interpreter who keeps the tightest sphincter for fear his numerous degrees might spill from within his rectal cavity where they have been kept! They’d have her popping capsules and tablets some eggshell white and some pasty pink, adjustments here and blood tests there and all the how are you feeling todays they’d pump her full of, fearing the marks on the pale white sheets might spread to marks on the pale white arms, fearing the truths on the page will not create calm, only rage. The inky quill always dipping in the well and splattering on perfectly good parchment—why that cannot be helping this defunct disease! A weapon, the pen for wielding harbored armies of malcontent for the outdoors and others and being one with the rest. Crush all the feathered tips! Tip the inkwells! Burn her pages to ashy curls!

No more death for her to be haunted by, she can dream of green hills. Shove into her brain a sunlit meadow of flowers and lilac on the edge of the dank forest that has been creeping within all these years. Tell it to keep back, those woods that mirth. Force the ghostly images she conjures on the page to fade into nothing. Put them back where they came from, that nowhere they don’t believe in they won’t accept they won’t learn of things that do not exist. Silence the loudest and darkest and greatest pen in Amherst. Surely no one need know what goes on beneath the scalp of the black-haired woman in white.

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