Dickinson often would switch up words in her lines for something more vague. She keeps you guessing about what she is saying in her poems. Such is the case with her poem below:
It sifts from Leaden Sieves —
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road —
It makes an Even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain —
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again —
It reaches to the Fence —
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces —
It deals Celestial Vail
To Stump, and Stack — and Stem —
A Summer’s empty Room —
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them–
It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen —
Then stills its Artisans — like Ghosts —
Denying they have been —
The first stanza gives us a few clues as to what the poem is about. The first line tells us straightaway the “it” is something fine enough to be sifted. It also dusts the trees of the forest and is the color of alabaster, or white. I sense a bit of inversion from normal thought in the third line. We are lead to think that this is about snow.
She further exaggerates the snow’s effect on the landscape in the second stanza. It becomes clear that “it” fills in the land evenly from horizon to horizon. But here comes the switches: the mountain has a face and the land has a forehead. This is really different and will mystify some.
The third stanza tells us of her immediate area, a fence. She changes the word “wool” to “fleece”. The first and third line words, therefore, share consonance (fence and fleeces). The stanza doesn’t finish cleanly. The fourth line “belongs” to the next stanza in terms of thought.
The fourth stanza gets more descriptive: she tells us it’s covering the trees and flowers. Stacks may refer to roads and bridges. Summer’s empty room should be the fields when they are filled with grass. Acres of joints should be the turns and corners of the roads because joints are where the arms bend. These objects are all rather drab, she states in the fourth line, until snow accentuates them, or is it that the objects accentuate the snow? None of these lines are predictable at all.
Finally, the last stanza tells us that the snow also has depth when it comes up the fenceline. Here’s another switch: the fence is personified by having wrists with the purpose of showing how high the snow is. The last two lines cleverly tell us that the snow is deep enough to cover the town and all things the townspeople are familiar with. It’s as if to say that the town looks dead. This leaves the reader with several possible feelings: delight, gloom or peace.