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“… how infinite I am”

In “The Way I read a Letter’s – this –”, Dickinson describes the transportive powers of writing for both reader and author. Echoing the first lines of this poem, Dickinson reportedly once mimed turning the lock on her bedroom door as she said to her niece Martha: “It’s just a turn— and freedom, Matty!”

The Way I read a Letter’s – this –
‘Tis first – I lock the Door –
And push it with my fingers – next –
For transport it be sure –

And then I go the furthest off
To counteract a knock –
Then draw my little Letter forth
And slowly pick the lock –

Then – glancing narrow, at the Wall –
And narrow at the floor
For firm Conviction of a Mouse
Not exorcised before –

Peruse how infinite I am
To no one that You – know –
And sigh for lack of Heaven – but not
The Heaven God bestow –

Emily Dickinson, Fr 700, The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, ed. R.W. Franklin (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), 312.

Marha Dickinson Bianchi, Emily Dickinson: Face to Face (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1932), 66.

Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University

Manuscript sheet with poetry written in script in ink. Two holes are punched in left margin.