give me a daisy

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the silence of himself sang like a bird

As I was leaving Michigan thirty-nine years and one month ago, I gave myself the gift of a book: Complete Poems, 1913-1962, E. E. Cummings.

It was totally impractical. I boarded the plane to begin again in San Francisco with only two suitcases, but one of them contained the 866-page hardcover book of poetry.

Very few things from that time in my life are still in my possession. So it’s safe to say this book with the yellow pages, numerous scrap paper bookmarks (one with the words “grass” and “picnic,” another with directions to someplace in Marin County, and a third with a woman’s name in red crayon, a phone number, and “day after Easter”), the torn cover, and multicolored Post-it flags has stood the test of time.

One of the poems in that book even generated the name for this blog. And this is it:

one winter afternoon

(at the magical hour
when is becomes if)

a bespangled clown
standing on eighth street
handed me a flower.

Nobody,it’s safe
to say,observed him but

myself;and why?because

without any doubt he was
whatever(first and last)

mostpeople fear most:
a mystery for which i’ve
no word except alive

—that is,completely alert
and miraculously whole;

with not merely a mind and a heart

but unquestionably a soul-
by no means funereally hilarious

(or otherwise democratic)
but essentially poetic
or ethereally serious:

a fine not a coarse clown
(no mob, but a person)

and while never saying a word

who was anything but dumb;
since the silence of him

self sang like a bird.
Most people have been heard
screaming for international

measures that render hell rational
—i thank heaven somebody’s crazy

enough to give me a daisy

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4 thoughts on “the silence of himself sang like a bird

  1. Great story! Did you know that I also bought a copy of that book for myself? Not sure of the timing, but it was probably close. 🙂

  2. No, I didn’t know you had (have?) a copy of that book. Cool!

  3. poetdonald on said:

    a mystery for which i’ve
    no word except alive

    Any comment I make on that line will take away from the power of them

  4. Yes, those words struck me, too, when I reread the poem.

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