How To Keep Moving, ft. Emily Dickinson

If your Nerve, deny you –

Go above your Nerve –

He can lean against the Grave,

If he fear to swerve,


That’s a steady posture –

Never any bend (one)

Held of those Brass arms –

Best Giant made –


If your Soul seesaw

Lift the Flesh door –

The Poltroon wants Oxygen –

Nothing more –

-Emily Dickinson


Notes about the transcription of the poem: I personally feel like this poem has been sabotaged – after looking at a picture of the handwritten version. I can’t figure out of the dashes are actually meant to be commas or full stops, and I am warring with that strange comma that appears right after Nerve, because I couldn’t find anything more than a mere mistaken mark of the pen that looks more like a full stop than a comma anyway. And there were all these + signs I don’t know how to interpret, and the word “one” missing (which I have added in brackets).

Lately, I have been trying to resurrect an attribute I had, which I used to admire: boldness. Including being bold in terms of doing what you want even if you’re flopping – or shall I say, afraid to flop, afraid of not being good enough. And lately, when I have found myself falling back into fear, it is this Emily Dickinson poem that comes to my head.

I’ve seen some pretty creepy and somewhat far-fetched analyses of this poem on the internet, so I’m not going to go into all of that spiritual-bordering-on-occultist stuff. Instead, I will speak of what meaning I get from this poem by describing how it helps me keep moving.


If your Nerve deny you,

Go above your Nerve

What holds you back but fear? Nervousness? What else stops you from achieving greatness when everything else is attainable? What else would make you deny yourself the things you could so easily have? The only thing to do when your Nerves won’t let you be great is to hop right over them like they don’t even exist.


He can lean against the Grave

If he fear to swerve

As much as I may be interpreting this in a very 21st century way, what I see here is: “This Nervousness guy can go to hell if he doesn’t want to get out of my freaking way.” I like interpreting it like this. It’s hardcore, unforgiving, push-forward-no-matter-what kind of stuff.


That’s a steady posture,

Never any bend

When you let go of your anxiety, you will no longer have a cause to be indecisive, shaky, or anything aside from steady, straight, and steadfast, unbending. And this is my goal.


Held of those Brass arms

Best Giant made

When you are steady, you are large – larger than life. The best. You cannot be overcome. To add to the unyielding and steady posture, we have now added the strength and beauty of the Brass arms. My one-word summary of these two lines is: “great”.


If your soul Seesaw,

Lift the Flesh door

The only thing holding your soul back – from what it truly yearns for – is your weak flesh. The flesh is holding it back so that your soul thinks it is uncertain. I’m sure Christians know all about this “struggle against the Flesh”. Just let the unnecessary indecision go.


The Poltroon wants Oxygen,

Nothing more.

Let your “cowardly” soul breathe. Let it out. Exercise is all it ever needed. Imagine that! The cure to your fear of doing…is to do!


So, whenever my Nerve denies me, I shall go above my Nerve.