I was a Phoebe—nothing more, (1009)

I was a Phoebe—nothing more—
A Phoebe—nothing less—
The little note that others dropt
I fitted into place—

I dwelt too low that any seek—
Too shy, that any blame—
A Phoebe makes a little print—
Upon the Floors of Fame

—Emily Dickinson (1830-86)


This Black Phoebe, whom I saw repeatedly, always appeared at the top of the same weathered stump. On the north side of Santa Cruz Island, there above the beach, he was the only one. If he had a nest to protect I did not see it; nor a mate; nor young.  I may have missed them. Or, as also happens with us, perhaps just a case of wishful thinking.

Mark Seth Lender


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Reprinted by the permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, Ralph W. Franklin, ed. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.