E. E. Cummings #3

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

— E. E. Cummings

From W {ViVa} (1931).

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Gwendolyn Brooks


God is a gorilla.

I see him standing in the sky.
He is clouds.
There’s a beard that is
white and light gray.

His arms are gorilla arms,
limp at his sides; his fists
not easy but not angry.

I tell my friend.
Pointing, I tell my friend
“God is a gorilla. Look!

My friend says “It is a crime
to call God a gorilla. You have insulted our God.”

I answer:
“Gorilla is majesty.
Other gorillas

— Gwendolyn Brooks

From Children Coming Home (1991).

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Patricia Smith

Introduction to the poem starts at 2:45; poem starts at 3:30.

Chinese Cucumbers

it’s 3 pm on one helluva hot day and he’d been
scouring the close cluttered streets nonstop,
forgetting lunch. it’s 3 pm exactly one week
after headline screamed at him from
supermarket tabloid, CHINESE CUCUMBERS
MIRACLE CURE FOR AIDS and now right in the
middle of poking around another dusty stall,
slapping aside the maggots and fruit flies,
he realizes he doesn’t even know what the damned
things look like. and once he found them, if he
ever did, what next? did he peel them,
mash them, purée them, boil them, sauté
them, or simply rub the cold, unwashed
things across David’s spotted skin?
should he share them with David,
forcing the crisp slices into his lover’s mouth,
send pieces to their friends, pray over
them, light them like candles, offer them
as sacrifice or simply bake them up in a nice
casserole? Or maybe the cure was just in
finding them—maybe the minute one of the
tight-lipped Chinese merchants admitted
he had some of the little babies stashed in
the back, David would sit up in his hospital
bed and say hey I can breathe now. maybe
the damned things weren’t salvation, maybe
they were just like the oils, the oils, those
pungent greases it took him almost a year
to find, and when he did he warmed fat drops
in his hands and rubbed them over David’s
sunken balls, over the withered cock, up and
down the bony legs and between the toes. then
he turned the thin shell over, warmed the oil
in his hands again and massaged David’s ass
and back and waited and waited and waited
and—, but the damned oil just glistened
under the lamplight, and David kept on dying,
dying so loud you could hear it,
he could hear it, but he also heard NEW CURE
ON THE HORIZON, crystals, yes, hung from
the neck on pure golden chains, set at angles
in the sunlight, crystals, Oprah and Phil,
Nightline and Current Affair screaming it,
and he heard, he held David’s cracking head in
his lap and slipped the chain down on toothpick
neck, the lavender crystal burning with bad light,
glittering against David’s breastbone, shaking
with his breathing and not working, not working,
dammit not working, but pretty as hell and loud
as shit. I am one gorgeous chunk of glass the
crystal screamed, but what is inside this body
I cannot pull out, I cannot silence the clicking
and the wheezing or purify the rotten blood, but
have you tried the oils? made a near-dead boy
in the south end stand up in his bed and scream
HALLELUJAH! but then again he was also on the
spiritual path, repeating one thousand times a
day i am a good person, my body is pure, i will
not die, i am a good person, my body is pure, i
will not die, and as he guides David through
the words, watching them move sore and hurting
through the mouth, the oil matting his hair,
the crystal on fire at his throat, choking
on the chant i am a good person, my body is
pure, i will not die, and tomorrow wouldn’t
be nearly so hot, he’d search all damned day
if he had to, and headline screamed at him
from supermarket tabloid CHINESE CUCUMBERS
MIRACLE CURE FOR AIDS and Jesus Christ the
damn things had to be somewhere.

— Patricia Smith

From Big Towns, Big Talk (1992).

Patricia Smith worked with Kurt Heintz to create a “poetry video” for this piece in 1994. You can read about the creation and reception of this video here, and watch or download the video with one of these links:

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Margaret Atwood

Variations on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

— Margaret Atwood

From True Stories (1981).

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E. E. Cummings #2

i like my body when it is with your
body.   It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body.   i like what it does,
i like its hows.   i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss,   i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . .  And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly I like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

— E. E. Cummings

From & (And) (1925).

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E. E. Cummings

Poem 42


g can


the m




— E. E. Cummings

From 73 Poems (1963).

Commentary: “A perfect example of a theme being enhanced typographically…What amounts to a single seven-word sentence, is spread with symmetrical precision across seven ‘stanzas’ and fifteen lines. The three line units begin and end with the same lower case letter, the capital letter of the middle line shifts from the ends to the centre point, back to the ends, and once again to the centre. Each of the first two one line units consists of four lower case letters, consisting firstly of a single letter, space, and three letters; and then reversed, three letters, space, and the first of the next word. The final one line unit, ‘of’ launches the denouement of the phrase, revealing exactly what it is that nothing can surpass the mystery of. What is revealed to be a simple aphorism is presented in a complex and precise manner, a skillful act of balancing, using each letter to work for the poem’s effect. However, before we notice the symmetry, we are forced to reconstitute the words of the phrase, piece by piece over the hurdles that Cummings has laid down for us. The resulting effect is to reduce the speed at which we comprehend its message, echoing the ‘stillness’ of the poem’s conclusion. What is clear when examining the structure of the above piece is that any examination of the positions of letters or the shape of the stanza does not reveal anything more than the aphorism itself, but it does amplify its effect, so that we may feel its meaning instead of merely acknowledging it. The effect of the piece is holistic, its meaning comes in a rush, hopefully providing the reader with a greater sense of his intention.” -Alan Tranter

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Aram Saroyan

click to enlarge

Commentary: “I…can still scarcely believe that the government once gave an award to so wonderful an artwork…[One should] encounter it properly, at the center of an otherwise blank page—to emphasize its deserving a full page’s worth of attention (as an expression of light, and only light)…[T]he extra ‘gh’ is neither trivial nor obscure. By putting it into his word, Saroyan brings us face-to-face with the ineffability of light, a mysterious substance whose components are somehow there but absent, as ‘ghgh’ is there (and delicately shimmering) but unpronounced in the word, ‘lighght.’ And he leaves us with intimations of his single syllable of light’s expanding, silently and weightlessly, ‘gh’ by ‘gh,’ into…Final Illumination.” -Bob Grumman

Here are some other examples of Minimalist poetry, also with commentary by Bob Grumman.

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