Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Part Two: Love 12. I cannot live with you


I cannot live with you,

It would be life,

And life is over there

Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to,

Putting up

Our life, his porcelain,

Like a cup

Discarded of the housewife,

Quaint or broken;

A newer Sevres pleases,

Old ones crack.

I could not die with you,

For one must wait

To shut the other's gaze down, --

You could not.

And I, could I stand by

And see you freeze,

Without my right of frost,

Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise with you,

Because your face

Would put out Jesus',

That new grace

Glow plain and foreign

On my homesick eye,

Except that you, than he

Shone closer by.

They'd judge us -- how?

For you served Heaven, you know,

Or sought to;

I could not,

Because you saturated sight,

And I had no more eyes

For sordid excellence

As Paradise.

And were you lost, I would be,

Though my name

Rang loudest

On the heavenly fame.

And were you saved,

And I condemned to be

Where you were not,

That self were hell to me.

So we must keep apart,

You there, I here,

With just the door ajar

That oceans are,

And prayer,

And that pale sustenance,