she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff i was
careful of her and(having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell)next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slow-ly;bare,ly nudg.      ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightening)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

brakes Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.


e.e. cummings

I remember, vividly, the first time I heard this poem: and I'm glad to say that I did hear it before I read it - I've found much of its power and humour is diluted by encountering it in a written form - a discovery that has led me to read poems I like aloud immediately after seeing them on the page ever since.

I was a naive sixteen. Up until that point in my life, the poetry I read had tended to be that served up to children, nursery verse, followed by strong rhythmic narrative poetry, followed by more challenging classics. However, apart from The Flea, by John Donne, sex had hardly been touched upon, and certainly with no explicitness. Free verse was still fairly new to me, too.

I was on a special weekend intensive literature course, and we began, on the Friday evening, by reading our favourite poetry we'd brought along. They even let us sing songs with lyrics we considered particularly poetic. After a fairly predictable cross section - I considered myself so sophisticated in selecting the opening speech from Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood - our lecturer got up and read us this poem.

Incredulity gave way to giggles, but soon the giggling stopped. We began to realise how possible it was to tell two entirely different stories with one set of carefully chosen words, to move beyond metaphor to build whole distinct levels of meaning. This poem was something quite, quite different to what we'd been used to. And it was dirty, too.

It was something of a revelation to us, as it doubtless has been to many others - I know that amongst our group it spawned a hundred (very bad) imitations.

I've never yet achieved a poem that works completely at two levels the way this one does - but I like to keep it on hand. It gives me something to shoot for.

Poem noded with permission