Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1628) suppose
suppose Life is an old man carrying flowers on his head. young death sits in a cafe smiling, a piece of money held between his thumb and first finger (i say "will he buy flowers" to you and "Death is young life wears velour trousers life totters, life has a beard" i say to you who are silent. - "Do you see Life? he is there and here, or that, or this or nothing or an old man 3 thirds asleep, on his head flowers, always crying to nobody something about les roses les bluets yes, will He buy? Les belles bottes - oh hear , pas cheres") and my love slowly answered I think so. But I think I see someone else there is a lady, whose name is Afterwards she is sitting beside young death, is slender; likes flowers.
Some people are just too smart for their own good. And E E Cummings is, IMHO, one of them. Not that I don't get a kick out of his ingenious punctuation, his intriguing line breaks, his frequently bizarre spacing, his clever little witticisms ("3 thirds / asleep"). Reading Cummings is like listening to some great jazz pianist at work - the endlessness of his improvisations takes your breath away, the little tone jokes make you laugh out in surprise. Except that you get so caught up in these clever little tricks that you never notice that underneath all that jazz is a sweet old melody. Underneath Cummings' witty style is an incredible, singing, old-fashioned poet, a master of image and emotion. Cummings writes elsewhere "since feeling is first / he who pays attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you". And he who pays attention to the syntax of cummings' poems will never wholly appreciate them. This poem is an excellent illustration: the punctuation and word play are tame, by Cummings standards, but the image of life as a poor old man selling flowers to a young, rich death is one of the cruellest and most heartbreaking that I've ever come across, and Cummings draws you deeper and deeper into the pathos, until that final two word line leaves you with a sense of infinite hope. Pay attention to the syntax here, and you'll see why this is a really clever poem. Ignore the syntax and you'll see why it's a beautiful one. Aseem