Distance is not Distance

I’ve been asked to read ee cummings’ [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in] at three different weddings. I managed (much to my embarrassment today) to wheedle my way out of two of them by presenting alternatives. One was a poem I had written myself for my brother and new sister-in-law, and the other was my favorite of cummings’ poems.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                             i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I do not object to this poem, although, it might be too commonly read at weddings for my taste. Cummings has an unparalleled way with words that has not escaped my notice in any of his poems. However, I had, until recently, always found this to be somewhat, well, idolatrous. You’ll notice the following lines, “i fear/no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want/no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)” This sentiment has often made me feel a though too much power is given to the subject of the poem, power and reverence, reverence that should be reserved for God.

This might still be the case. But my romantic heart still has many things to learn, and recently I understood what cummings meant when he wrote this. I finally took his meaning when he talks about never being without his love’s heart. His words capture perfectly the swell in my chest as I go about my day in the knowledge of being loved by another. Distance is not distance and time is not time, because your love is always nearer than any dimensions. When cummings speaks of fate, it is not because the subject of his poem determines his fate; it is because his fate is inseparable from hers. They have become so entwined, that where he begins and she ends has become imperceptible. So he can rightly say that “this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” Love is just such a wonder, and it is by no mistake or idolatry that cummings perceives the cosmic aspects in the way his heart beats.

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