The Amherst Girl

by David Barber


Miss Dickinson? — Be seated if you would —
Excellent — These days so many young folk
Slouch — We might use your book — Dickens I see —
Perhaps on the table at your elbow?
And something more feminine — A posy —
Try not to play with it — The process needs
Complete stillness for several seconds —

First, settle your arm across the chair back —
Excellent — Your dress is commendably plain
But the composition needs adornment —
This daguerreotype will last a lifetime
And your daughters would not forgive me —
A ribbon or two at the neck perhaps?
You have a charming smile — expectant of life.

But a smile grows uneasy when prolonged —
Instead, imagine what your future holds —
An old ploy of mine — Look into the lens —
I have noticed portraits are often viewed
In the light of happenings afterwards —
Some hint of greatness — The whiff of heartbreak —
A riddle of the photographer’s art —

Excellent — You may cough and fidget now —
We must be very careful with the plate —
Do you suppose a life can be captured
For the ages inside this clever box?
A writer might struggle to tell as much —
So, what have you to say Miss Dickinson?
Ah — my next sitter — We shall never know.

Emily Dickinson, ca 1846

Copyright © 2011 by David Barber

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