Before I had any real notion of building a personal library, I was given a 1973 edition of The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. It had been my mom’s and the oldest of her younger brothers as they worked their ways through college, then it came back as a shared heirloom for me in a family that has very few things of that nature. I mean, we have hand-stitched Christmas ornaments, a sketch of Einstein, a ring with gemstones missing that doesn’t leave my mom’s hand, and suitcases of photographs, but few things that can be presented to guests as “ours,” so the book is special. I didn’t think of it that way when I was eight and only glanced over the index it to see if that Tennyson guy who came so highly recommended from Anne Shirley was in there, and didn’t approach it for years after my initial disappointment.
When I finally did return to it, I noticed something I couldn’t believe I’d missed before: a billing card from a dentist’s office addressed to my dad was holding a page. As an only child whose books had taught her that everything was a clue of some kind, I decided the poems on either side of the card must be very important. The idea that it was just an absent gesture to save a document in a book that was on hand was and is unacceptable to me, as silly as that may be. Today, E.E. Cummings fails to find himself on my list of favorite writers, but the marked poems have stayed with me and the card remains until the book’s future owner removes it.
[it is so long since my heart has been with yours] it is so long since my heart has been with yours shut by our mingling arms through a darkness where new lights begin and increase, since your mind has walked into my kiss as a stranger into the streets and colours of a town-- that i have perhaps forgotten how,always (from these hurrying crudities of blood and flesh) Love coins His most gradual gesture, and whittles life into eternity --after which our separating selves become museums filled with skillfully stuffed memories
Note: If you want to start a fight about name de/capitalization, I am not your girl.