Interpreting My Life Closed Twice by Emily Dickinson

Let’s look at the meaning of this short poem by Emily Dickinson.

My Life Closed Twice

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

     ~ by Emily Dickinson


The first line is like a riddle. The reader is left wondering how a life can ‘close’ twice before its final closure—death. The two closures refer to intense heartbreaks that feel like a kind of death. What caused such heartbreaks? It is not specified in the poem, but it is likely the deaths of loved ones (such as a parents, children, lovers or close friends).

In the next five lines, the then narrator wonders whether she will suffer a third such loss before she dies.

And the last two lines sum up the message of the poem. When our loved ones die, we hope they go to a ‘better place’ but the actual pain of losing them is a kind of hell.

This poem describes how the heartbreak of losing of a loved one can be so significant and unimaginably painful that it is like a kind of death in itself.


The rhyme and rhythm are regular. The rhyming pattern is ABCB DEFE (me rhymes with seehell rhymes with befell). The second, fourth, sixth and eighth lines each contain six syllables, and are written in the written in the iambic meter of weak followed by strong beats (in the following two example, the syllable have been underlined)

third event to me
As these that twice befel

The first, third, fifth lines each contain eight syllables and generally follow the iambic meter. However, the seventh line breaks up the regular rhythm—it has nine syllables, begins on a strong beat (Parting) and ends on a weak syllable (heaven). This creates an interesting break in the rhythm just before the final line.

Your Interpretation

How would you interpret this poem? What do you think the two closures were?

~ by longzijun

Interpretations of Poems

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