Miss Crosswell become a proselytizing stickler, a Quasimodette. She had a fervour for pointless authoritative rubric, caught sermons into her literature training, and become empathetically trollish. A proud graduate of Oral Roberts University, Miss Crosswell heard in Dickinson’s poetry what Miss Crosswell supposed to pay attention in the whole lot: the tune of unshakeable faith.

My personal family became below the spell of Oral Roberts and his ilk. In the worrying womb of my bun-haired, make-up-loose mother, I attended revivals of every televangelist who came near town, from Ernest Angley to Jimmy Swaggart. As I turned into developing up I noted a pendulous quality in my zealous father: every match of fanaticism complemented one in every of deviance. This dynamic precipitated my early suspicions that spiritual faith changed into infinitely more complicated than the airtight version the adults around me have been so desperately marketing. To her credit score, Miss Crosswell felt a need to allude to a ribald past she turned into no longer happy with, but those limitations didn’t stop her from seeing Dickinson as her kindred. They both lived alone, in homes with enviable perspectives, saving themselves for a few Great Approaching Thing. My inner reactionary accused Miss Crosswell of selective notion, of preferential listening; she seemed to miss Dickinson’s doubt and wildness and become the use of her, like Noah used pitch on the ark, to make things stick together, to fill holes.

On the other hand, I’ve accomplished my proportion of selective notion and preferential listening, too. For the longest time I assumed Dickinson was from the South. (Coming of age in upstate South Carolina may be like developing up in a cauldron that you could’t see out of: Oral Roberts turned into an expert determine everywhere, proper? They watched The Dukes of Hazzard in Denmark, didn’t they? I imply, President Jimmy Carter—pre-empting The Waltons or Hee-Haw—didn’t sound that unique from our mayor.) Maybe the Southern institutions were for all time sealed with the aid of my first listening to Dickinson’s poems in Miss Crosswell’s falsetto drawl (became “I never saw a Moor” now not approximately cows?). The poems’ lilting trees, garden snakes, tight-knit communities, horses, farmers, noisy birds, barns, cemeteries, and expanses of darkness sounded only some strength strains, Fords, and crawdads short of an specific description of wherein I lived. And Dickinson talked like everyone around me who turned into both doomsaying approximately demise or throwing around vital conceits from the King James Bible. And that white get dressed she wore regarded immediately out of Gone with the Wind, which my sister and mother watched on holidays. Surely, Emily Dickinson was from a few haunted Southern town in which they’d witnessed Civil War battles from their rooftops; simply, her tone of bereavement changed into rooted in commiseration with a town of War widows. She changed into gothic, right? And didn’t the South have dibs on that?


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