Robert Kelly’s pick for National Poetry Month at P4P

 

Robert Kelly is a Politics for the People member from Texas. Today, he shares a favorite e.e. cummings poem with us.  Here are his thoughts on “i sing of Olaf glad and big”:

I have been fond of e.e. cummings’s “I sing of Olaf glad and big” since I first read it in high school English almost fifty years ago. It was pretty controversial in those days because of the anti-war, anti-nationalistic sentiments and the profanity.

I was no conscientious objector and Olaf was certainly “more brave than me.” This poem is an anthem to anyone who takes an unpopular stand because of conscience and is made to suffer for it.”

 

i sing of Olaf glad and big

  1. E. Cummings, 1894 – 1962

 

i sing of Olaf glad and big

whose warmest heart recoiled at war:

a conscientious object-or

 

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig

westpointer most succinctly bred)

took erring Olaf soon in hand;

but–though an host of overjoyed

noncoms (first knocking on the head

him) do through icy waters roll

that helplessness which others stroke

with brushes recently employed

anent this muddy toiletbowl,

while kindred intellects evoke

allegiance per blunt instruments–

Olaf (being to all intents

a corpse and wanting any rag

upon what God unto him gave)

responds,without getting annoyed

“I will not kiss your fucking flag”

 

straightway the silver bird looked grave

(departing hurriedly to shave)

 

but–though all kinds of officers

(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)

their passive prey did kick and curse

until for wear their clarion

voices and boots were much the worse,

and egged the firstclassprivates on

his rectum wickedly to tease

by means of skilfully applied

bayonets roasted hot with heat–

Olaf (upon what were once knees)

does almost ceaselessly repeat

“there is some shit I will not eat”

 

our president,being of which

assertions duly notified

threw the yellowsonofabitch

into a dungeon,where he died

 

Christ (of His mercy infinite)

i pray to see;and Olaf,too

 

preponderatingly because

unless statistics lie he was

more brave than me:more blond than you.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Shatzi Weisberger

     /  April 14, 2016

    Wow So powerful! I loved it. Thank you Robert.

    Reply
  2. June Hirsh

     /  April 14, 2016

    Thank you Robert, I find this poem you’ve carried with you over many years powerful, painful and promising too..

    Reply

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