Poetry Sunday: That Sacred Closet When You Sweep

I've spent the past week clearing out closets, sorting things to donate or pass on to others and filling trash bags with items which no longer have any use to me, if they ever did. It's a task that I try to do once a year and it always surprises me that, even though I cleaned that closet a few months ago, here it is filled to the rafters once again.

So, closets have been much on my mind, and when I went looking for a poem to feature this week, what should I find but this weird little verse by Emily Dickinson.

It seems that she is speaking metaphorically, not of an actual closet but of the closet of "Memory" and she urges us to sweep carefully, reverentially. One can see that it might not be such a good idea to toss memories in the trash like so much refuse.

I tried to be a lot more ruthless in my sorting of the closets, but there, too, I found lots of memories - pictures, mementoes of my daughters' childhoods, and of my own and my husband's and even of our parents and other ancestors. Memories that invite reverence and reflection and made me slow down and sweep carefully because august is the dust of that domain.

That Sacred Closet When You Sweep

by Emily Dickinson

That sacred Closet when you sweep —
Entitled "Memory" —
Select a reverential Broom —
And do it silently.

'Twill be a Labor of surprise —
Besides Identity
Of other Interlocutors
A probability —

August the Dust of that Domain —
Unchallenged — let it lie —
You cannot supersede itself
But it can silence you —


  1. Much to ponder in that poem. August the Dust indeed.

    1. Dickinson had a fascinating mind and way of expressing it. For the most part, I think her poetry holds up well and does give us a lot to contemplate.

  2. That last stanza - I don't understand it, but I get that feeling i will, if I ponder it. A lot.

    1. It is rather enigmatic, isn't it? I think she means that the impressive "dust" of our memories cannot be supplanted, but losing them would "silence" our selves - we would no longer be ourselves without our memories.

  3. I like your interpretation as I didn't get the last stanza either. ;-)

    1. I don't guarantee its accuracy but that's what it said to me.


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