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The cricket sang,

And set the sun,

And workmen finished, one by one,

Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,

The twilight stood as strangers do

With hat in hand, polite and new,

To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came, —

A wisdom without face or name,

A peace, as hemispheres at home, —

And so the night became.

This month’s poet is Emily Dickinson. Born in 1830 (though her writing often seems more modern than that), she was a poet very interested in different kinds of belonging. For a start, she openly published very little in her lifetime, preferring instead to handwrite her poems before tying bundles of them together with string (this is why they’re all numbered with roman numerals). They are all therefore imbued with a personal touch, and an internal sense that, though each one might be very different from the next, the sets of poems belong together.

Her poem ‘Evening’ describes twilight moving into night, a quiet time at which we might reflect on our day’s work, on the conversations we’ve had, and on what we might have learned. Twilight is also a time between one thing and the next (day and night), and so Dickinson reflects on the connections she sees between all things: ‘the cricket’, ‘the sun’, and ‘workmen’ are all working in harmony as the opening lines unfold. This is how she – and we – might feel at home in the world at large, how we can build bonds and relationships.

Another way she does this is with similes (comparing one thing to another), as with ‘A vastness, as a neighbour came’: by comparing something so impersonal as ‘vastness’ to the intimacy of a ‘neighbour’ she shows that she is always open to new encounters, no matter what form they might take. And because she thinks this way, her environment follows suit: ‘And so the night became’. Notice how the poem ends on a verb (a ‘doing’ word), which tell us that belonging – that which makes both ‘hemispheres’ feel ‘at home’ – is something we build together all the time.

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