by Alicia Ostriker

Page 2

We readers know who that mighty merchant is, and his cool indifference recurs in quite a number of Dickinson's poems. Once she declares:

Of course - I prayed -
And did God Care?
He cared as much as on the Air
A Bird - had stamped her foot -
And cried "Give Me" -

(JP 376)

On another occasion:

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod.
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels - twice descending
Reimbursed my store -
Burglar! Banker - Father!
I am poor once more!

(JP 49)

That is one of Emily Dickinson's most interesting poems because of the way it plays with the idea that, as we all know, the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Is the poet reverential, or is she blasphemous? Is she praying, is she accusing? She's lost something; or has it been stolen? The dominant metaphor is economic. Somebody has all the power, all the goods, and it isn't her. It isn't she. It isn't us. It isn't we.

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