E.E. Cummings & the musings of a growing womyn

The Rain Is A Handsome Animal

By E.E. Cummings

Whereupon I seize a train and suddenly i am in Paris toward night, in Mai.

Along the river trees are letting go scarcely and silently wisps, parcels

of incense, which drop floatingly through a vista of talking moving people;

timidly which caress hats and shoulders, wrists and dresses; which unspeakingly

alight upon the laughter of men and children, girls and soldiers.

In twilight these ridiculous and exquisite things descendingly move among

the people, gently and imperishably. People are not sorry to be alive.

People are not ashamed.People smile, moving gaily and irrevocably moving

through twilight to The Gingerbread Fair. I am alive, I go along too, I

slowly go up the vista among the hats and soldiers, among the smiles and

neckties, the kisses and old men, wrists and laughter. We all together irrevocably

are moving, are moving slowly and gaily moving. Intricately the

shoulders of us and our hats timidly are touched by a million absurd hinting

things; by wisps and by women and by laughter and by forever: while,

upon our minds, fasten beautifully and close the warm tentacles of evening.

I love this poem. I love the imagery, the details, the adventurous spirit of it all with the signature E.E. romance. I am such a romantic, but not in a cliche way and not just for others. I live romantically and I do so for myself, because it feels right and healthy for me. I was telling my roommate the other night that I enjoy the romantic atmosphere of my bedroom largely because it makes it enjoyable for me to just be in my solitude. Sure, it’s nice to have company, but it’s not necessary. I pay attention to the details. I enjoy filtered lighting though colorful curtains. And I love drinking tea in bed while writing out my thoughts by hand. I enjoy daydreaming and I always have, because it makes life more interesting and helps me gather inspiration to create and see the beauty of life. I love this poem, because it embodies those traveling, daydream qualities within myself. I often imagine jumping on a train and traveling to a different country and being surrounded by new people, smells and architecture. I visualize the details in the manner that E.E. does, and it fills me with excitement and urges to live! I repeat this line over and over again in my head:

“People are not sorry to be alive. People are not ashamed.”

I am not sorry nor ashamed. I am feeling more solid and whole everyday. I have a lot of love and warmth to give to the universe, and what has been weighing me down is how to exactly do that; what are my next steps? As I move deeper into my twenties I contemplate life and growth and what is interesting is that these feelings are so familiar. I have held these thoughts with me since I was a little girl. I was a romantic back then when I would write and walk around my little dead-end street making elaborate plans about what I intended to do with my life. And these weren’t little girl daydreams of castles and fairy tale marriages. These dreams were filled with art, love, travel and revolution. Dreams that had material consequences and effects that I am still sorting through today.

A lot of these aspirations were inspired by history and the conditions of the world, and my own navigation within it. From a young age I was conscious of the built in oppression and exploitation of this global system. And I was very conscious of the barriers that racism and sexism imposed upon me as a working-class, half-black girl. What is interesting is that I never deeply internalized these oppressions to the point where they defeated me. I gathered strength from it all. I  carried a fierce attitude that embodied determination to prove them all wrong. And by them I mean the system; the racist kids of my youth who tried to make me feel inferior; and the sexism that made me fearful of men and my own body. I was committed to proving that I was too smart and too talented for anything the system , and the people who internalized it, had to offer me. I remember when I was about 6 or 7 driving with my mother while she was doing errands. I had this quiet moment with myself, where I seriously thought about how racism and sexism are designed to make me feel unequal to white people and boys. Then I thought about how much I loved black people, black history, black culture and my family. I thought about how much I loved the women in my family and how strong and beautiful they are despite all this prejudice. And I thought about how much I loved being a girl who transcended gender boundaries; a girl who appreciated ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ things. In that moment I realized how amazing it was to be both black and a woman and doing all these amazing things despite the prejudices of society and then I proclaimed loudly to my mother from the backseat ‘mom I love being a girl!’

I still hold that memory very close to my heart and I think the sentiment still shapes who I am today. I also see it reaffirmed in the writings of one of my favorite woman writers Zora Neal Hurston, who survived despite the racism of the system and the sexism within the literary world. There is a quote from one of my favorite essays by her that represents this spirit as well. The essay is titled “How it Feels to be Colored Me” and she writes,

“Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

I smile every time I read it. I love the boldness and confidence in which she speaks of herself and her people. This type of fierceness is often denied to us as women; we are conditioned to be passive and dependent upon men, who are allowed the space to be loud and confident. But it is these women, who I have always been drawn to and who shape me as a womyn. Women who are bold; who seek a life of adventure and romance and scenes like the one described in the above poem. Women like my best friend Kate, whose never ending desire for life experience has prompted her to move to foreign countries twice: the first time was in Cambodia at 19 and currently she is living in Guatemala. This poem actually comes from the book Another E.E. Cummings, and it is a collection of his avant-garde work. I gave this book to Kate right before she left for Guatemala at the end of last summer. As whole as I am feeling right now it has been difficult to be a part from her. However, she sent me good news today that she will be making her way back to the states this spring, which fills my heart with much happiness and desire for adventures. Not sure what those next steps will be yet, but I am confident that they will include her, foreign sunsets, afternoon writing, late night coffee, and lots and lots of growth.


One Comment on “E.E. Cummings & the musings of a growing womyn”

  1. markweiss86 says:

    look for the Tin Hat jazz cd “The Rain is a Handsome Animal” music set to words of eec, on New Amsterdam Records out of Brooklyn, out 08/28/12


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