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a glosa

trust your heart if the seas catch fire
live by love though the stars walk backward
losing through you what seemed myself, I find
selves unimaginably mine, beyond…

“dive for dreams”, e.e. cummings


The man with the kind smile is in the news today
for shame; I think his mother must be feeling
terrible. How hard she’s scrubbed what hangs in
public view. It’s not her laundry now, nor mine, and
yet I cannot help but cringe. This brine cooked up
by marketeers of low repute electrocutes—the wire
running through us all burns hot and white. It rips us
into trenches, splitting wrong from everybody’s right.
To him, the kind one, I offer this: while all seems dire,
trust your heart if the seas catch fire.

Let’s say, for sake of argument, that an institution
knows what’s best for you and me between the
sheets and who we call to warm them. The exit
signs are clearly marked; I know the rules,
you know who dominates, submits. Our excitation
knows no bounds…so far, so good, our sword
play’s in good fun—what’s this? You run to papa,
now? What’s changed? This wasn’t in our game!
The pain that binds us reappears, inside outward:
Live by love, though the stars walk backward.

Now we’re raining frogs and razor blades,
the “I would nevers” puffing up, their croaks
if not harmonious, at least, are sanctimonious.
Meanwhile, in stalls high up in marble halls,
stars of varying repute, nova, dark and dwarf,
fear toppling like you from their hard-won blind
heavens. What can I do to extract promises
from the many I have loved most awkwardly?
Not much. I thought I’d left you all behind.
Losing through you what seemed myself, I find

a vast, polluted land that someone promised
me, I can’t remember when or why. I have no
maps or guide. The bondage that delighted
us, our thumbing nose to pharaohs, seems,
in retrospect, like sweet repose. The failure
of success I feared most cruelly has dawned
an angry sun. What would my father say?
I made him proud and do so, still…perhaps,
these plagues I’ll weather and discover fond
selves, unimaginably mine, beyond…


I have taken some liberties with this glosa, a form that many of you may now recognize. The lines I’ve taken from e.e. cummings’ poem, “dive for dreams” are not a consecutive quatrain. I gleaned them from the larger poem in response to a current event, which, in its vividness and universality, addresses us all. Cummings, no stranger to controversy in his lifetime (1894-1962), probably wouldn’t mind.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Image from Wikimedia Commons