Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Death

I like a look of Agony

It’s been a while since I’ve commented on one of Emily Dickinson’s poems. Here’s one that seems right for this season of national and international rhetoric. My comments follow, in free-verse form.

I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it’s true –
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe –

The Eyes glaze once – and that is Death –
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.

c. 1861

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

Emily doesn’t like false feelings or pretense. In this poem she looks to Death for an example of true feelings. Not expressed in words, but literally, on the forehead of a dying person. No one can possibly play make-believe when it comes time to die. Convulsions and the intense agonies of death, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, can’t be faked.

Nor can those telltale ‘Beads upon the Forehead’ of the dying person. Even silent Anguish cries out with tears that leak through the skin. Beads of Anguish strung upon the Brow. Thus Death gives strange birth to Truth. The truth of Agony and Anguish.

Below is my free-verse response to Emily’s poem. I’m struck by how many ‘fake’ emotions parade before our eyes and ears each day. We live in an age that celebrates Faux or at least Exaggerated Feelings. Perhaps to such an extent that we no longer discern what is Manufactured from what is Real.

With apologies to Emily:

We live in an age of Faux Feelings
Or at least an age that rewards them
Not with congratulations but with Attention
and Faux Gasps of Horror or Delight

Perhaps we forgot or never knew
How to have, much less allow air time
For True Feelings not ratcheted up
To the nth degree — especially True Agony

The kind not found by looking in a mirror
Trying to get just the right look that will
land just the right response be it Attention,
Applause, Laughter or the Disgust of the Moment

Unsocial Commandments hamstring us
Pulling chains that avert our eyes instead of
Encouraging us toward each other in life and
In death as family and next of kin, not strangers

Life and Death itself seem to propel us toward
Ever-greater depths of make-believe and denial –
Hiding behind masks that mimic or minimize feelings
We most fear to acknowledge, sit with or name

Perhaps our Deaths are the only unscripted
Roles we play with unfiltered, uncosmeticized
Feelings of True Agony, Grief, Pain and Love,
Finally crossing all sides of divides that bind us

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2018
Photo found at

Going home

Maybe it’s the steady march
of autumn fading into brown
Or birds migrating south
in twos and threes and twelves

Then again it may be nothing
more than daylight diminishing
into shades of deepening night

Unexpectedly I wake up
anticipating the unthinkable
bidding farewell to this world
sinking below and beyond
the horizon into unending day
finally at home and at peace

Writing these words troubles me
Has deep discontent wormed its way
into my soul?

Yet there it sits.
This world of aching beauty and sorrow
will not be my home forever

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 October 2017
Photo found at pinterest; taken by David Allen Photography
Sunset from Clingman’s Dome, Great Smokey Mountains, North Carolina


Sudden release
Followed by startled grief
Most deeply felt
In waves

Release of pain
Blood pressure dropping
To a measurable

Knocks at my door
Sweeps emptiness aside
For a shining moment

Arrives on the doorstep
Of my heart

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 October 2017
Photo found at
Daily Prompt: Release

The high cost of loving

Just when I think
I’ve memorized
Every line in your face
Death rewrites it

My heart stops beating
Memory fails
A lump in its throat

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Memorize

…Dying to be born


Autumn brilliance fades
Behind misty fog
Precursor of dreams
Conceived out of time
Dying to be born


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 November 2016
Response to WP Daily Prompt: Faded
Photo by Ayten Kranat, found at

I died for Beauty —


This poem from Emily Dickinson gnaws at me. Is it a poem of despair or encouragement? And whose voices are these, anyway? My comments follow.

I died for Beauty – but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room –

He questioned softly, “Why I failed”?
“For Beauty”, I replied –
“And I – for Truth – Themselves are One –
“We brethren, are”, He said –

And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night –
We talked between the Rooms –
Until the Moss had reached our lips –
And covered up – our names –

c. 1862

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

“I died for Beauty….” Was this a literal death? No. It seems more like a dream. Emily is dead. Yet she doesn’t dwell on Death. Instead, she begins with that for which she died. Beauty.

Emily is in the Tomb. She didn’t get here on her own. Others laid her here. Adjustments have just been made (theirs of her body? hers to her new reality?), when she notices she has company.

Next to her, in the adjoining Room, she has a new neighbor. She recognizes “the One who died for Truth.” She knows he already died for Truth. How long ago was that? Is she surprised to find this One laid to rest in the Room next to hers? We don’t know.

The One who died for Truth initiates conversation with her. Not in a grand, authoritative voice, but softly. He wants to know why she failed. She says it was for Beauty.

He immediately acknowledges he failed for Truth, and declares the two are One—Beauty and Truth. Which makes them kin, brother and sister. Not enemies or strangers.

What does it mean to fail? Emily’s response seems to rule out her physical health failing and leading to death.

Perhaps this means failure after a long, valiant battle. Hers on behalf of Beauty; his on behalf of Truth. Not necessarily the end of the battle, but the end of what Emily and the One could do in their lifetimes.

Then again, I wonder whether these dead were silenced by the opposition because they didn’t like what they heard and saw in Emily and the One. At the least, perhaps they died of heartbreak or despair due to apathy about Beauty and Truth.

Perhaps. Yet here’s how I imagine it.

  • Emily failed because she was overcome by the power of Truth in Beauty. Truth found in natural Beauty, in all creation and all creatures great and small. Especially in those deemed small and less than great or good.
  • The One who already died failed because he was overcome by the power of Beauty in Truth. Beauty that dignifies all creation and all creatures great and small, reminding him of the One who created this world. Especially those deemed small and less than great or good.

Truth and Beauty are One. They aren’t many, and they aren’t at odds with each other. In fact, together they are so powerful that they can’t be silenced, even in these newly occupied Tombs.

And so the quiet, unrecorded conversation between Beauty and Truth goes on until the moss creeps up over the occupants’ Lips and, in a surprise ending, covers up their names, not just their Lips. A sign, perhaps, that Beauty and Truth have a mysterious life of their own.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 October 2016
Photo found at

Terror and Faith | 9/11/2001

Today I couldn’t stop thinking about this piece I wrote in response to the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center. I still believe every word I wrote back then, and find them both comforting and challenging given our current world situation. Thanks for reading and commenting if you’d like. Elouise

Telling the Truth

It’s difficult to focus.
Voices and images
clamor for my attention,
my response,
my analysis of what is beyond all reason.

I force myself to stay close to the bone,

View original post 498 more words



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