After a great pain, a formal feeling comes…
-Emily Dickinson

After pain’s mind-numbing decibels,
in the stunned silence of an empty room
a crowd has just left, you feel formal,
you feel like you’re made of glass
sitting on the edge of your chair,
fingers trembling, trying to remember
the soothing rites, the rote phrases
incanted as in a dream: I’m fine,
thank you, and how are you?

And still you’re quivering in your
stiff heart, in all your ceremonious
nerves. While the crude ignorant world
blusters by, inside, you are just now
catching your breath. Mechanically,
your feet make the rounds,
as you watch the snow piling up outside
the window, freezing the rhododendrons,
which curl against the chill.
Wrapped in winter’s stupor,
the oak leaves let go.

Pam Wagner
We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders

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