A professor once told me that some literary critics thought that the endings of Emily Dickinson’s poetry often had a feeling of an atomic explosion. I didn’t realize that but I thought I did see a nuclear explosion in one of her poems:
It was a quiet seeming Day —
There was no harm in earth or sky —
Till with the closing sun
There strayed an accidental Red
A Strolling Hue, one would have said
To westward of the Town —
But when the Earth began to jar
And Houses vanished with a roar
And Human Nature hid
We comprehended by the Awe
As those that Dissolution saw
The Poppy in the Cloud
– Emily Dickinson
It starts with a perfectly pleasant day, a perfect set up for nuclear destruction. Interpretations of the poem say that it describes a sunset. The sun sets in the west, bringing a red hue to the sky. The houses vanish into the darkness. Human nature has an old fear of the dark. The magnificent sunset, the poppy in the cloud.
But it’s perfect for a bomb dropping scenario. All is quiet, no one expects harm, the accidental Red may have been a warning. The Earth began to rumble, the bomb destroys houses, people are terrified by this awesome power, the poppy in the cloud (so much like a mushroom cloud) brings death to the planet.
I may be wrong, but whenever I read this poem, I can’t stop thinking of this nuclear metaphor.