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As Freedom Is A Breakfast Food: Love According to E.E. Cummings

love is the sky

“but love is the sky and I am for you/ just so long and long enough“- E.E. Cummings

E.E.Cummings’s poem, “as freedom is a breakfast food” is a poem full of nonsense lines and witty turns of phrase. It’s my favorite poem, and has been since I first read it about two years ago. I love the Lewis-Carroll-esque way that Cummings flips ideas on their heads. And tucked at the end of all the nonsensical stanzas, a beautiful point waits for the reader.

All throughout the poem, Cummings presents the world as topsy-turvy. Hatracks grow into peach trees, mountains create molehills, fingers are toes, and courage is fear–everything is mixed up and confused together. And in each stanza, he repeats a single thought: “long enough and just so long”. There is a prevailing idea of a shortness of time.

Interestingly enough, you could argue that some of his nonsense is true for brief moments. For a second after water is poured over a fire, the flame flares higher. What’s common often times was once rare, and millstones when they hit the water are floating to the bottom as much as they are sinking. In this crazy world, the strange and unbelievable have a knack for becoming real. “Truth is stranger that fiction,” as Mark Twain so rightly observed. But even so, I don’t believe the mess of the reality we live in is really what Cummings is getting at.

”tomorrow will not be too late”

At this line, the tone shifts. Each stanza is building up to the final one, counting down almost. We see after the repeated phrase “long enough and just so long,” one fewer line in each stanza: 3 in the first, 2 in the second, 1 in the third, and none after the last. Cummings is structuring his poem to carry us to and prepare us for his climax, and the third stanza is the turn that tells us to pay attention. “Tomorrow will not be too late;” the future is coming, coming quick.

And in this final stanza, we see a little more clearly, things as they are and should be. Joy is the voice; dreams are active and powerful. As Cummings comes to the close, he changes his pattern, and in the final three lines we find the greatest point of the poem.

“-time is a tree (this life one leaf)

but love is the sky, and i am for you

just so long and long enough”

Time itself is ever-growing, and our life in comparison is short. We’re but a leaf, here today and falling to the earth tomorrow. Our lives are small, fading things. Yet, love, love is sky. Love is vast; love is unmeasurable. Love is far beyond the reach of time, though time reaches to the heights, it cannot reach love. Despite the briefness of life, despite even the briefness of love; though we may have each other only a moment, that moment is long enough.  Love is enough. And enough is a beautiful word.

As we celebrate love this Valentine’s Day and the people we care about, whether significant others or just family and friends, I hope you remember what a gift it is to have those people. Love is a blessing that lasts when all else falls away.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.“– 1 Cor. 3:13, ESV

All that said, what are some of your favorite love poems, romantic or platonic?

as freedom is a breakfast food by E.E. Cummings

as freedom is a breakfastfood
or truth can live with right and wrong
or molehills are from mountains made
—long enough and just so long
will being pay the rent of seem
and genius please the talentgang
and water most encourage flame
as hatracks into peachtrees grow
or hopes dance best on bald mens hair
and every finger is a toe
and any courage is a fear
—long enough and just so long
will the impure think all things pure
and hornets wail by children stung
or as the seeing are the blind
and robins never welcome spring
nor flatfolk prove their world is round
nor dingsters die at break of dong
and common’s rare and millstones float
—long enough and just so long
tomorrow will not be too late
worms are the words but joy’s the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
—time is a tree(this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough
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