plato told

him:he couldn't
believe it(jesus

told him;he
wouldn't believe

certainly told
him,and general

and even
(believe it

told him:i told
him;we told him
(he didn't believe it,no

sir)it took
a nipponized bit of
the old sixth

el;in the top of his head:to tell


-e. e. cummings

I never understood this poem, until one day I was talking to this guy who was alive during WWII and I asked him what happened to street cars. I knew that the city I grew up in used to have them, and that a lot of American cities did and that hardly any had them any more and maybe I was absent that day in school but I didn't know why. This guy told me that he remembered them digging up all the tracks and melting the them down to make munitions for the world war 2. We used the bones of our cities to kill people on the other side of the world. That's the nipponized bit of the old 6th avenue El in the poem.

I had originally assumed that Plato and Loa Tse and Jesus were telling 'him' that "war is bad", but now I think maybe they were telling him "you're gonna die". I find this sort of thing absolutely amazing.

Just a quick comment on the writeup from newmonster -- the steel from the elevated train line that e. e. cummings is referring to was largely sold as scrap to the Japanese, not made into American munitions. The train had been torn down to be replaced by a subway line, because the El was terribly noisy, and dripped oil and ash on the heads of pedestrians underneath. (See the Wikipedia entry for "IRT Sixth Avenue Line" for more details.) I do believe the message of the poem is anti-war; my impression is that it's about a young man who thought war would be glorious (rather than being, as the saying goes, days of boredom punctuated by minutes of horror), and it took dying to convince him otherwise.

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