Emily Dickinson, “I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know —” (224)

I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know — (224)
Emily Dickinson

I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know —
So I keep bringing These —
Just as the Night keeps fetching Stars
To our familiar eyes —

Maybe, we shouldn’t mind them —
Unless they didn’t come —
Then — maybe, it would puzzle us
To find our way Home —

Comment:

This “love” thing in which humans engage never ceases to amaze. “Hard to get” seems to be the major game regarding love, as it causes desire, but “hard to get” in some ways is less about love and more about status, rarity, opportunity. But if you explain love through status, rarity, opportunity, it looks like you’re too reductive. Some people do simply love, after all.

So here’s Dickinson, playing coy before a beloved: “I’ve nothing else.” I have nothing else here besides me. The sexual tension rises sharply, and she deflects. “I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know.” Truth is, she’s been deflecting for a while, that these encounters with the beloved have been constant, and yet in some way, she has not been accepted:

I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know —
So I keep bringing These —
Just as the Night keeps fetching Stars
To our familiar eyes —

Maybe, we shouldn’t mind them —
Unless they didn’t come —

She’s been “bringing These” to their encounters, just as the night keeps bringing stars for their eyes. There have been many nights of star-gazing, many nights of effort. She feels wronged, musing if the stars are given adequate attention. Their eyes are too familiar, perhaps. Perhaps they would be noticed if they didn’t come.

You could say Dickinson is playing hard to get, but she’s clearly frustrated with the situation. She’s been bringing these – let’s just say gifts of tenderness – night after night. I should say I don’t know how sexual “bringing These” ultimately is. It is sexual, sure, but it definitely refers to her giving as much as she can, giving what is in some sense beyond her. “I’ve nothing else” is in a sense the opposite claim: I want to be accepted for who I am, I want to be loved for who I am.

You could say that the beloved knows damn well who she is, as “I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know.” That only deepens the puzzle of being loved simply, though. She is known, her efforts are known, and she isn’t loved. Now, to be loved for who she is, she needs darkness to lead him back to them, not just her:

Then — maybe, it would puzzle us
To find our way Home —

Again, the sexuality of these lines is striking, and heightens the problem of “I’ve nothing else” and “bringing These.” A lot of tenderness and love has been shown, and she promises to show still more, being lost in the dark together. Or maybe “unless they didn’t come” means she’ll do nothing. We know, at this point, that he’s a rather dense beloved. What of her? I suspect there’s more than sexual pleasure at stake, as the poem has been so forthright about it already. She does think the beloved can appreciate her for who she truly is. The funny thing is how complicated a proposition that is. Being known in some way, she had to put forth efforts that were not fully appreciated. Now she has to pull away those efforts or intensify them in order to create more togetherness. With that togetherness, they “find our way Home.” Is she herself found? “I’ve nothing else.” I say get a new boyfriend. “Hard to get” might be a stupid game, but whether it works or not, it isn’t this much hassle.

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