E. E. Cummings
Pronounced spring
And reading this at age fifteen,
I nearly fell from my wooden desk—
November at Virginia’s oldest,
Coldest high school, tepid
Radiator tinking industrial notes,
And the classroom smelling of Milton,
A sesquicentennial of chalk dust.

I had been born from that same spring,
Feral on my grandparents’ farm,
Vernal marsh spread below
The slowly sinking cowshed—
Knew that paradise plain,
Oozing warm muck
Between bare toes,
Springtime in full slime,
Dripping with juice,
A sopping sponge of everything slick;

Knew the half-formed creatures that
My shadow’s shadow,
Liquid mud cloud-
Cupped in hoof-prints,
Burrowing into clay wombs,
From which—if I squatted
Perfectly still, perfectly silent—
Two eyes like periscopes
Would emerge at last,
Seeing-not-seeing me;

Sun-blind, plunging hands
Into the marsh,
I scooped soil, roots,
Clods of marl,
Filtering through fingertips,
Slippery slitherers
Squipping free,
Squeezing nothing but
Earth, so black,
—Stratified, saturated—
Dyed with death;

No, not death.
Something else;
Mint and mallow
And lush tussocks of sedge,
Bunched arpeggios,
Supple stepping stones;
Cattails kneeling in
Thin water,
Ripe with spurtive larvae;
Fluid mirrors

Deeper, knee-deep,
Pants rolled and schluck-schlucking,
Blindly mucking,
Probing for firmness beneath;
Marvelous filth, calf-clinging,
Coated in wondrous, wholesome stench,
Each step a gassy, belching burp,
Closer to the pond’s edge,
Property of snapping turtles,
Hoary with moss,
Carrying the moist world on their backs;

Puddle-wonderful! An inch below the surface,
Thousands of wriggling red worms,
Bright as blood,
Thin as the finest filament of unwound yarn,
Eyelash-long, writhing medusae,
Spasmodic snakes swaying,
Feasting on floating, microscopic scum.
Microscopic to us!
Scum to us!
Their monstrous mouths gulp,
The water awash in food, alive;

All alive!
Mud-glorious metamorphosis
Of the wing-gilled salamander,
Crayfish husking its carapace,
Tadpoles trading tails for legs;
Wood ducklings tumbling from
Sycamore knot nests,
Flat-footed swampers;
Goslings pipping
From the egg,
Trapped, until the instant they’re not;

School of mud;
Classroom of mud;
Teacher of mud;
Art of mud;
Language of mud;
Geometry of mud;
Chemistry of mud;
Osmosis of mud;
Student of mud;
Childhood of mud,
Observed close!

What lovely nonsense, aprilmay,
When Cummings splashed words,
Leap-plunging two-footed,
Eager to sink
Who knows how deep—
But certain,
Each spring,
That dark winter
Making us.