She sweeps with many-colored Brooms —

by Elouise


Here’s a charming poem from Emily Dickinson. It suits my mood for something that turns my eyes toward the heavens. Something spectacular that hints of glory and power beyond our human capacities. My personal response follows.

She sweeps with many-colored Brooms –
And leaves the Shreds behind –
Oh Housewife in the Evening West –
Come back, and dust the Pond!

You dropped a Purple Ravelling in –
You dropped an Amber thread –
And now you’ve littered all the East
With Duds of Emerald!

And still, she plies her spotted Brooms,
And still the Aprons fly,
Till Brooms fade softly into stars –
And then I come away –

c. 1861

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

I first found this poem in my Emily Dickinson collection for young people. However, it’s also in my adult collection. So taking the role of an adult child, several possible responses come to mind.

  • If this Housewife is trying to clean things up, she isn’t very efficient. Just look at all the bits and pieces she’s dropping and leaving behind! Doesn’t she know how to sweep anything right? Look at that! She just left dust all over the Pond!
  • Whatever’s going on up there, it doesn’t have any rhyme or reason. The longer she sweeps, the more littered it gets. First this bit left behind, then that. All swept helter skelter across the face of the heavens. Maybe she doesn’t have good eyesight.
  • Also, why waste so many Aprons and colored Brooms? One of each would be more than enough. She isn’t very cost conscious, is she? All that effort and investment for just a few minutes of who knows what. A flash in the sky. That’s all.
  • Now look at that! It’s already getting dark out here. I don’t think she knows what she’s doing. This isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans in the morning. In fact, all her hard work will be for nothing in just a few seconds. Why bother?

Of course all that is nonsense. Emily isn’t writing about a sloppy housewife. She’s describing a majestic display in the heavens that just keeps traveling around the earth each minute of every sunset.

Even more amazing, the beauty being swept across the evening sky comes from the remains of the day. The ‘Duds.’ The ragged old clothes that are tired and worn out. Not sure they’ll live to see the next day. Coming near the end of their life, almost but not quite disappearing into darkness.

Such a spectacular, even wasteful show of beauty. Doesn’t this Housewife understand what’s going on down here? How dare She waste time with the dust and duds of this earth in a show of supposed glory? Doesn’t She know what really matters and will make a concrete difference?

I love the extravagance of this Housewifely Creator. Day in and day out. One magical sunrise and sunset after another. Especially sunsets that transform bits and pieces of throw-away detritus and fragile whisps of clouds, making them a Prelude to the starry night. All for our delight, awe and encouragement. We are not left to our own devices.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mere mortals, that you care for them?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 January 2017
Image found at