Sunday Poetry: my sweet old etcetera, by ee cummings

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

my sister

Isabel created hundreds
hundreds)of socks not to
mention fleaproof earwarmers
etcetera wristers etcetera, my
mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)


ee cummings may have been the horniest dude ever to live. In this poem, he takes a poem about sacrifice and war, and turns it into a musing upon his lover’s etcetera. Read in conjunction with many of his other poems, the picture emerges that ee cummings was as obsessed with copulation as a 15 year-old boy at the beach.

And why not? Lust is a shared experience across our culture – a drive that’s as powerful and creative as murder and more insistent than higher aesthetic appreciation. It’s universal, it’s deeply personal, and it is one of the things that makes us human. It causes old men to act like fools, and young women to make disastrous mistakes. The object of lust is often tied up into our deepest emotional and psychic core, where shadows of first loves and first lessons inhabit shady freudian caves. In short, ee cummings isn’t interested in writing about clouds or a babbling brook; he wants to grab your attention and make you share something with a soldier in a trench in World War I.

Yes, World War I. This poem dates back to 1926, and the war he’s speaking of is the same one that was memorialized by “In Flanders Field” and Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial. What we’ve come to think of as the Great War gets reduced in ee cummings’ hands to a horny soldier in a trench thinking dirty thoughts while his sister knits socks and his mother is hoping he achieves a noble death. ee cummings writes about humanity as it really exists, and most of us reading the poem are able to understand exactly how that soldier feels in the deep mud thinking about his lover’s knees.

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