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Poems

J465

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King -
Be witnessed - in the Room -

I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -

With Blue - uncertain stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed -and then
I could not see to see -

c. 1862                    1896

This is one of Dickinson's best-known poems on death as an epistemological frontier. The question it poses is: What will be witnessed at the moment of death? But since it is a construct of language, and thus of consciousness, whatever may be revealed is left paradoxically concealed.