I remember wheeling my rusty blue bicycle through the wooden gate beneath the apple tree and thinking about someone I loved. I cycled along the river path to town and locked up my bicycle outside the bank. There I walked inside to complete a final errand, returning with a voided savings book and twenty euros to spare in my pocket.
I thought of keeping the twenty euros, of putting it aside with the rest of my savings or keeping it tucked away in the folds of my mint-green purse, of stashing it in some inside pocket of my suitcase for a rainy day. That would have been the sensible thing to do.
But it was a June afternoon, the air bristling with that keen sense of possibility so very unique to the season – and I was a twenty-one year old girl about to leave town with a newfound distaste for the sensible.
And so it was that afternoon, 30 degree heat hanging shroud-like in the air and 20 euros burning a hole in my pocket, that I first discovered the poetry of E. E. Cummings.
Standing in Bücher Pustet, where I had sauntered guiltily – a literary addict searching for one last hit – my 20 euros and I found ourselves clutching a dual language edition entitled the poems to come are for you and for me and are not for most people.
I was seduced in an instant – utterly helpless to this man and his lilting syntax, to his oddball punctuation and that endearing title, to the cover a duck egg’s blue. Buzzing with the heady rush incited by the thought of spending my last paper money in the country on poetry (what can I say? I like my thrills literary), I rushed to the counter so as not to talk myself out of it, slid the book across the table and parted with the twenty.
The following afternoon, anthology tucked away in the inside pocket of my suitcase, I boarded the express train bound for Vienna. A few days later, having arrived at the stables where I was to spend a month teaching English, I was tucked up in a bunk bed in the barn when my new room-mate Erika – unpacking on the floor below – squealed Is that an E E Cummings book I spy?
And so it transpired, in a wonderfully serendipitous twist of fate, that my bunkmate’s favourite poet was one Mr E E Cummings – and I, delighted with the calm coincidence of this fact, jumped up from my top bunk and crashed my head on our low European ceiling.
The rest of the night was spent with a pack of frozen peas clasped to my forehead as Erika read E. E. Cummings aloud in her syrupy Colorado drawl. Ever since, I’ve harboured a fraternal fondness for the man and his work (and he sure did help out Erika and I, when, stuck for lesson plans in the Austrian backwoods, we organised a poetry slam for our pupils and Mr Cummings came into his own.)
And, you know, I never regretted spending my last twenty euros.
Let It Go
let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
so comes love
– e. e. cummings
Another E. E. Cummings poem a little too racy to post on this blog: here.