Undated but probably dreamed 1870s, by Emily Dickinson
In Winter in my Room
I came upon a Worm--
Pink, lank and warm--
But as he was a worm
And worms presume
Not quite with him at home--
Secured him by a string
To something neighboring
And went along.
A Trifle afterward
I shrank--"How fair you are"
That time I flew
This was a dream.
I like this nightmare because, like a lot of Dickinson, it's so strangely modern. Freud would be sure he knew what that worm was, of course, and he might even be right. But nothing's simple in Dickinson's world. The worm grows not just big but articulate, and perceptive; it sees through Emily's new-found politeness quite as well as Freud himself might.
And the nightmare has broad applicability. Whether sex or ambition or doubts about God (and Emily's worm could be all of these and more), we've all tied up something with a string and idly thought it under our control, only to have it grow up "ringed with power", to come after us with a vengeance for restricting it--for taking it for granted.
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