The Only Portrait of Emily Dickinson

By Irene McKinney 1939–2012 Irene McKinney
The straight neck held up out of the lace
is bound with a black velvet band.
She holds her mouth the way she chooses,
the full underlip constrained by a small muscle.

She doesn’t blink or look aside,
although her left eye is considering
a slant. She would smile
if she had time, but right now

there is composure to be invented.
She stares at the photographer.
The black crepe settles. Emerging
from the sleeve, a shapely hand

holds out a white, translucent blossom.
“They always say things which embarrass
my dog,” she tells the photographer.
She is amused, but not as much as he’d like.

Irene McKinney, “The Only Portrait of Emily Dickinson” from Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004. Copyright © 2009 by Irene McKinney. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004 (Red Hen Press, 2009)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Irene McKinney 1939–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

Biography

The daughter of a schoolteacher, poet Irene McKinney grew up on her family’s farm in Belington, West Virginia. She earned a BA at West Virginia Wesleyan College, an MA at West Virginia University, and a PhD at the University of Utah.
 
McKinney published several collections of poetry, including The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap (1976); Six O’Clock Mine Report (1989), which was chosen for the Pitt Poetry Series; and Vivid . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.