A Bird Came Down the Walk

Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts...

Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts – side view of Emily Dickinson’s house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some reason my Dickinsonia instincts and my deep appreciation of her poetry kick in full blast in the summer and winter (“There’s a certain slant of light/On winter afternoons/That oppresses like the heft/Of cathedral tunes” etc).

But today I observed something out my front window in the “oppressive” heat and humidity of July here, with a tropical storm taunting us from down south, that put me in mind of another, more humorous Dickinson poem I thought I’d share with you.

Emily Dickinson just loved birds (I do too), but she was occasionally appalled at the cavalier “nature” of nature at work, the indifferent dispatch with which its minions “dispatched” (and swallowed) one another.  Very funny to me. Ah, that’s life! Everything has gotta eat, ya know.


A bird came down the Walk–

He did not know I saw–

He bit an angleworm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew

From a convenient Grass–

And then hopped sidewise to the Wall

To let a Beetle pass–

He glanced with rapid eyes

That hurried all around–

They looked like frightened Beads, I thought–

He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,

I offered him a Crumb

And he unrolled his feathers

And rowed him softer home–

Than Oars divide the Ocean,

Too silver for a seam–

Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon

Leap, plashless as they swim.

–EMILY DICKINSON c. 1862, Amherst, Mass.

[The last two stanzas are priceless in the images she used to describe the physical actions of birds and butterflies in summer, just amazing, truly inspired, IMHO.]

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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7 Responses to A Bird Came Down the Walk

  1. emilyardagh says:

    This is great 🙂


  2. PS It will stop raining soon and I can get back to the really important task at hand: Planting more okra


  3. Mathew Paust says:

    Okra über alles.


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