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 skillfully, 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 colour 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
From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.
As a child I wanted as many letters
in my bloodstream as the planet Mercury
would allow and so traveled the city
on buses late afternoons and read all the billboards
high above the streets and byways,
on sides of factories and churches and never
heard the sermons of the displaced
or blustery talk of founding fathers, and saddened
when a route snaked through long tunnels,
and then eased when reemerged
out of the murder of light.
I could feel my veins thicken like the winnings
of a Powerball, and the mystery of women
lounging around a gray-bearded man in a silk
smoking jacket drinking a tumbler of cognac
was like the easeful glide of a narcotic dream.
My mouth puckered whenever lemon-colored
arches appeared five stories above the city
like golden gates to an unforeseen heaven.
As a rule, I never glanced at other commuters
or curators in loosened ties and tuxedos
who clutched brown-papered bottles
and nodded to a stillness as though murdered in a film.
Instead, I glimpsed myself looking out a window,
awed by Cartier timepieces and luxury cars
that asked was I hungry for speed
or ordered me to let my body drive.
I ate advertisements like sea waves eating a coastline,
and though my sense of self was as bruised as a moldy peach,
I learned to infrared my longings from the inside
and to tally my suspicions from a distance, and now,
when I read a newspaper, I flutter like a sparrow
at a birdfeeder, and when language spills out
of my skull like a massive cruise ship docked
and towering over a line of ramshackle huts
on an island whose blessed poor gaze up
as though a locker of dollars fell at their feet,
my brain closes and my veins burst
as if pollinating the white face of the moon.
Copyright © 2022 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.