Poem of the Week, by ee cummings

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Twenty years ago, when my grandmother died, I put two of her flowered dresses in a plastic bag and tied it up tight. That bag has sat on a closet shelf every place I’ve lived since. Sometimes I open it up and breathe deep. Her scent brings the physical sensation of her love back to me.

That particular kind of love is why I keep my children’s doors shut tight. They are grown and live in distant cities but when I open their doors and step inside, there they are again in the lingering scent of their clothes, their blankets, their essence. Unlike when they lived at home, their beds are neatly made. Making beds, that small daily antidote to chaos, soothes me.

Someday I won’t be here to make my bed anymore. And while I don’t know what I smell like, the people I love probably do.


in spite of everything, by e.e. cummings

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves, since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

– before leaving my room
i turn, and (stooping
through the morning) kiss
this pillow, dear
where our heads lived and were.


​For more information about ​ee cummings, please click here.



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Poem of the Week, by E.E. Cummings

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.44.54 AMSometimes I dream that I’m trying to get to Paris. I’m at the airport but I left my passport at home, and I can’t get a cab to go fetch it, and once I’m home I can’t remember where the passport is, and once I’m back at the airport I’m at the wrong terminal, and now I can’t find my ticket, and what happened to my roller bag, and, and, and this dream goes on all night long and I wake up exhausted. Sometimes don’t you want to step out of yourself for a day, or even a few hours, and just be someone else? Or no one else? This is when you need to read the poem below, by the hypnotic Mr. Cummings, because he knows exactly how you feel.


You Are Tired, by Edward Estlin Cummings

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away —
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and —
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart —
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I’ll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.


​For more information on E.E. Cummings, please click here.​

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Poem of the Week, by ee cummings

Abel Pann, breathing life into AdamWhen I was a kid I used to read ee cummings’ poems not so much for the words but for the way he put them down on the page, all shoved up against each other, parentheses around some, weird punctuation, missing spaces, and the complete lack of upper case letters, down to the way he spelled his own name. Why why why why does he do it that way, I used to wonder. The strangeness and unconventionality was so fascinating. He was a Famous Person so I knew that all these choices must be intentional, but why why why?

If at first I didn’t care about the poems themselves, now I love them. Mr. Cummings is one of my most beloved poets, in fact. A small white used paperback copy of his 50 Poems that I found at a garage sale sits on a shelf in the living room; this poem felt right for today.

in spite of everything
– e.e. cummings

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves, since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

– before leaving my room
i turn, and (stooping
through the morning) kiss
this pillow, dear
where our heads lived and were.


For more about ee cummings, please click here.


Poem of the Week, by ee cummings

I’ve always loved this amazing poet, from way back when I was a kid and I thought that all the weirdness of punctuation and lower-casing must be a typesetting mistake, and now I love this poet even more, for the way his love poems can be about romance and sex and remember-me-when-I’m-gone, and how in this particular one, love is a place and yes is a world. I also love ee cummings because I believe he would have no problem with me using the word “love” four times in that last sentence. Happy Valentine’s Day, all.


love is a place
– ee cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds


For more information on ee cummings, please click here.

a pretty a day (and every fades) is here and away –

One of your youthful companions wants to be Amish. The first time she saw a horse-drawn buggy and a bonnet-clad little girl dangling her feet off the seat, she turned to you and grabbed your hand.

“Look!” she said.

“Those people are Amish,” you said. “They ride in buggies instead of cars.”

She must have been about seven.

“I want to be Amish,” she said.

You started to laugh but then you didn’t, because you saw that she was serious. This was out in the country, far away from the city in which you lived then and in which she still lives when she’s home from college. She followed the buggy’s slow, creaking journey with her eyes until the horse rounded a corner and it was gone.

“Yup,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to be when I grow up. Amish.”

She’s pretty much grown up now, but she still declares, once in a while, that she’s going to be Amish. Computer, cell phone, car, short skirts and tank tops and bikinis and movies and late nights at First Avenue and airplanes and passport and and and and and all of it, she says, all of it can go. She will gladly give it up to be Amish.

But not really. The collection of books by Amish people and about Amish people, the little Amish boy’s handmade jacket, the Amish mug, the buggy crossing signs you bought her as a joke, her whole collection of useless Amish artifacts notwithstanding, she wouldn’t really do it.

Even though she is the girl who, at family reunions held at a timewarp inn in the mountains of New Hampshire, will square dance for hours, collect eggs from the chicken coop, gather with her cousins and aunts and uncles three times a day at a long table, sit entranced at a magic show and play Bingo.

Fully part of the electronified world and all its gadgets, she still wants it to slow down. She wants it to be simpler. She wants more homemadeness.

You don’t blame her. You do too. When she and her sister were younger, you read them to sleep every night. Lots of books, including the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series. A cliche, but so what. Even when you were little, back when the world wasn’t as fast, you wanted to live that log cabin life. You wanted to gasp in wonder at the sight of an orange in your Christmas stocking.

You wanted a letter –the very paper it was written on– to be so precious that you saved up your news for months and then wrote diagonally, in tiny script, beginning in one upper corner triangle and covering the entire page before turning it over and filling every millimeter of the other side.

A handwritten letter is a beautiful thing. See that box way up in the righthand corner? In case you can’t tell (this was supposed to be a biggish, sharp photo but, per usual, it ended up tiny and indistinct), it’s full of handwritten letters sent to you over many years.

That particular box is one of ten such boxes that fill three long wall cupboards. Open the doors and there they all are: pretty much every letter ever sent to you from high school on. You never throw out a handwritten letter. Or a handwritten card. Or a handwritten postcard.

How could you? Someone, somewhere, sat down at a table, or a desk, or propped a book on their lap on a train or a bus, or pulled down the tray table on an airplane, and laid out a piece of stationery, or a notecard, or a postcard, or a napkin or the back side of a bank statement or an electric bill, and picked up a pen, or a pencil, or a crayon, and then wrote your name.

Dear Alison.

Dear Dragon Lady.

Dear Allie.

Dear daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend.


Like so much else –the journals you’ve kept about your youthful companions, the notebooks filled with scribbled thoughts and ideas for future stories and novels and poems– you never looked at any of these saved letters until a few months ago. For decades you’ve dragged them all with you wherever you went, from apartment to apartment to house to house, thousands of miles in all: tripled-up plastic garbage bags, sagging coverless cardboard boxes, even double-bagged brown paper grocery bags full of them, hundreds and hundreds of letters. Thousands? Probably.

But when the Amish aspirant went to college you hauled them all out, determined once and for all to go through them, organize them, put your life in order, beginning with these sagging boxes and bags of letters letters letters. For God’s sake, anyone looking in that closet would think you were one of those hoarders.

Besides, everything in you was raw, anyway, with the Amish aspirant so suddenly gone, her room all messy and her bed unmade as if she would be climbing into it that night, but no, she wouldn’t be, she was a thousand miles away, so it couldn’t hurt to rip off a little more skin. Right?

But it didn’t hurt at all. That was the amazing thing. It was like watching a silent movie playing inside your brain, sorting those letters into piles by sender.

You only read some –it would take a year to read through all those letters– but even in the not-many you looked through, you couldn’t have imagined how transfixing it would be, just a few sentences written twenty years ago being all it took to conjure up the face and laughter of someone you love. You couldn’t have imagined how hard you would laugh. Or that sitting there holding a letter from someone you love would feel as if you were holding their hand.

Did you even know you had so many friends? That there were so many people out there you adored?

Yes. You did. But to see them all strewn around the bed and the floor and the shelves, piled by sender, was astonishing. The room was full of words, floating in the air. Full of voices. Faces.

Everyone’s handwriting is distinct. Most of the letters you needed only to glance at your name and address and you knew immediately which pile it belonged to: Ellen, with her distinctive E’s. Meredith, with her forward-slanting print. Greg, with his p.s.’s that scroll around the corners of the yellow legal paper. Christine, with her Palmer method script. Doc, those perfect capital letters in black Sharpie. RJ, tall leaning lowercase. Stinky, a third-grader’s scrawl. JO’s delicate half-cursive that looks as if she barely presses down on the pen. Jeff, whose y’s have that long hooked tail. Gabrielle, leftie with the backslanting leftie script. Bock, with his multi-colored crayoned envelopes. Oatie, with her many exclamation marks and swirling capital O’s.

Aerograms. Pale blue lightweight airmail fold-and-stick stationery on which you wrote and received dozens of letters, back in the day. Here’s a pile from RJ, sent mostly from Asia, during that year or two when all his addresses began with Poste restante.

You remember him calling you –this was right after you’d both graduated from college, and you were living in the tiny room trying to be a writer and typing papers to pay the rent and he had gotten an office job of some kind, insurance? finance?– and telling you that he felt as if he was suffocating. That he had to get out.

“What should I do?” he said. “What am I going to do?”

You didn’t know. You sat there at your typewriter, propped on two apple crates in front of your folding chair, all of which you’d scavenged from the curb on garbage night. It was a penniless sort of life but it was penniless on your own terms. You listened to him talk about traveling, and next thing you knew, poof – he was gone, quit his job, jumped on a plane, with the trickle of aerograms that began shortly thereafter as proof.

RJ, poste restante.

Those aerograms are here in this box, right now, so many years later, reminding you of the day he came traveling back to Boston, having lost thirty pounds that he didn’t have to lose, giant smile on that skeletal, handsome face.

What are your youthful companions going to do when they are the age you are now, without boxes of handwritten letters to sift through?

“I’m going to be Amish when I grow up.”

Is this what she means, by being Amish? Does being Amish mean having boxes of handwritten letters to sift through? Touch me, says the poet, remind me who I am.

For most this amazing day

granny-and-grampa-on-the-farmAs she left the church of the non-churchy a few weeks ago, she was a little late in joining the line of people filing out, because she had to gather up the strands of wool and knitting needles and stuff them into the bag containing the Scarf of Endlessness, so named because she does not know how to cast off, meaning that she will be knitting it for the rest of her life.

The scarf could also be called the Scarf of Continuing Mistakes, given that she cannot remember how many rows she’s knit and how many she’s purled, nor how to tell the difference between the two, and also she keeps dropping and adding stitches at random, but that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway, because of the scarf mess, she could not follow her usual routine, which is to leap up and exit the church of the non-churchy rapidly, before, God forbid, she might have to talk to anyone.

She loves this church because it is so beautiful, in its word and song and sermon – yes, even the sermons, even, especially, the sermons, which she still finds kind of shocking – and most of all because of its acceptance, even of people like her, who sit in the pew knitting away on a mistake-ridden scarf and then leap to their feet and exit rapidly without partaking of the social hour.

As she stood in the line of people filing out of the church, holding her program in one hand, ready to deposit it into the reuse-it-for-the-next-service basket, she noticed the necklace the young woman in front of her was wearing. Or rather, she noticed the chain of the necklace, since all she could see was the back of the woman’s neck.

She stood behind the necklace-wearing woman, clutching her program in one hand, mess of a scarf in the other, anxious to be out in the sun, idly observing the fragile gold links of the necklace and the way they curved around their wearer’s slender curved neck.

Then time did one of its  weird, loopy, out-of-time pauses, and everything slowed down.

The church, with its enormously high ceilings, hushed. The murmurs of the congregants hushed too. The dust motes in the air hung suspended in the golden light of the windows. The woman in front of her took one step forward, and she did too, still looking at the necklace.

But now everything was different. She saw the necklace, and the wisps of light brown hair escaping from the clips that held it to the back of the woman’s head. She saw the earrings the woman was wearing, dangling stones on hoops, and the pattern of her sundress.

She looked at the man in front of the woman, and the mother to the left holding the child’s hand.

Someone loves them, she thought. Or she didn’t think it, but that was the feeling that came flooding through her. Each one of these people is loved. Cherished.

But it wasn’t entirely that, even. What was it? She stood there, feeling as if she might cry. This feeling was too huge. She couldn’t hold it inside herself. Everything surrounding her, and every aspect of the people in that room with her, was beautiful. The old man, the young woman, the child, all of them filing out through the double doors.

She could love all of them. She already did, on some level that was far below the surface of her life. That was it. Not that she did love all of them, consciously – she didn’t know them – but that didn’t matter, because this was a feeling that was beyond her. She didn’t matter in this equation.

The beauty of the sensation – that all around her was such tenderness – was unbearable. She was too small and human to hold it beyond that one moment.

Time started up again. The woman with the necklace reached the recyle basket and dropped her program into it, and she followed suit. Out the doors, down the marble steps, and outside.

Now, weeks later, she closes her eyes and tries to remember the sensation, conjure it again. The church, the dust motes dancing, the sudden hush and pause, the certainty of love and its possibilities.