Poem of the Week, by Emily Dickinson

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

This morning I pulled a little book off my poetry shelves that looked like the kind of book I used to search through as a teenager, full of poems and aphorisms and quotes about how to live. Where this book came from I don’t know, but someone named Sandy had printed their name in decisive blue ink on the inside cover, and then decisively starred certain poems throughout.

None of Sandy’s starred poems were ones I would’ve picked. But then this familiar little poem below happened along, and the faces of all my students this semester rose up in my mind, smiling out of their little Zoom boxes, cradling cats and dogs and babies, roaming around their apartments with laptops in hand, trying to find a quiet place. All of them showing up, soldiering on in the face of all that’s been thrown at us this year. 2020. Geez. This poem is for everyone out there trying so hard to make a hard time softer.

If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking, by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

For more information about Emily Dickinson, please click here.
My website: alisonmcghee.com


  1. Gabrielle McGhee · November 28, 2020

    I hope you write some sort of essay / memoir about this year, and I don’t mean the gazette, wonderful though it is. You have had experiences, like your writing classes with students all over the world, that we don’t have. It would be powerful … when this is all over.

    Yes, I know this poem. But I do not know Sandy! 🤔💝

    Liked by 2 people

  2. alisonmcghee · November 29, 2020

    I don’t know who Sandy is either! I do know that Sandy is quite aggressive when it comes to underscoring and starring favorite poems (none of which I liked, but I’m not Sandy). XO

    Liked by 1 person

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