Zero at the Bone

Today’s prompt:   is a variation on a teaching exercise that the poet Anne Boyer uses with students studying the work of Emily Dickinson.  Find an Emily Dickinson poem – preferably one you’ve never previously read – and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it!

That’s the prompt and here is the poem I chose:

A narrow fellow in the grass (1096)


A narrow fellow in the grass

Occasionally rides;

You may have met him—did you not

His notice sudden is,

The grass divides as with a comb,

A spotted shaft is seen,

And then it closes at your feet,

And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,

A floor too cool for corn,

But when a boy and barefoot,

I more than once at noon

Have passed, I thought, a whip lash,

Unbraiding in the sun,

When stooping to secure it,

It wrinkled and was gone.

Several of nature’s people

I know, and they know me;

I feel for them a transport

Of cordiality.

But never met this fellow,

Attended or alone,

Without a tighter breathing,

And zero at the bone.


Zero at the Bone

     After Emily Dickinson

Too cool for corn, a boggy acre, unattended and alone,

I more than once at noon have passed.  This time

my hair, a whiplash unbraiding in the sun—

when stooping to secure, his notice sudden,

a shadow closes at my feet.

I feel for him a transport of cordiality

but never met this lad,

a narrow fellow, a boy and barefoot.

His pants divide as with a comb.

A spotted shaft is seen,

and then it opens further.

He rides me

on the grass his dirt feet know.

I thought, it wrinkled and then he was gone.

May you never may have met the fellow

in the grass  lest  people I know, and they know me

should know corn will not grow here.

Never should I pass here, without

a tighter breathing and zero at the bone.

~C.J. Prince