Cummings’ “you said Is”

Reading 200 plus pages of uncollected poems is probably more of a challenge than a pleasure, but I’ve finally finished reading E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962.

The most interesting sequence of the uncollected poems are a series of love poems that would probably have been considered too “erotic” to publish when they were written, though my favorite of the sequence

you said Is
there anything which
is dead or alive more beautiful
than my body,to have in your fingers
(trembling ever so little)?
Looking into
your eyes Nothing,i said,except the
air of spring smelling of never and forever.

….and through the lattice which moved as
if a hand is touched by a
moved as though
fingers touch a girl’s
Do you believe in always,the wind
said to the rain
I am too busy with
my flowers to believe,the rain answered

would probably have passed the censors even when written.

Since Cummings often equates spring with sex, the last line of the first stanza seems a little disingenuous, but effective, nevertheless. One doesn’t have to look too deeply to realize that most of Spring’s beauty is merely a manifestation of sexuality and the desire to procreate.

The more unusual line, however, is found in the last stanza, where the very nature of believing, or at least believing in “always,” is subordinated to taking care of “my flowers.” The narrator is too caught up in the moment, in fostering the beauty of here and now, to worry about death and whether or not he will live beyond this moment.

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