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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Emily Dickinson


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I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died

Emily Dickenson's poetry and fame did not appear until after her death. Her poem, I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, describes, some believe, a near-death experience, offering in poetic terms a recently deceased individual's perceptions just before and after death.

In the nineteenth century, people seldom died alone.  Family and friends usually surrounded the dying, not out of morbid curiosity but in the hope that the dying might bring back a message from beyond. "I heard a fly buzz when I died," the poem begins, though we do not yet know the importance of such an observation.

I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in Air --
Between the Heaves of Storm --
The Eyes around -- had wrung them dry
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset -- when the King
Be witnessed -- in the Room
I willed my Keepsakes -- Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable -- and then it was
There interposed a Fly
With Blue -- uncertain -- stumbling Buzz --
Between the light -- and me --
And then the windows failed -- and then
I could not see to see



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