I died for beauty

Johannesburg cemetary

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth,—the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

I have had a little bit of an Emily Dickinson obsession lately. Just before leaving Johannesburg I bought an old poetry book at Collector’s Treasury and this was the first poem I read in it. Then a few weeks ago walking near Central Park I came across the Strand Bookshop’s little outpost and there is was – a whole collection a Emily Dickinson poems. I think I will post my favorites along with photos from time to time.

This is the sun’s birthday

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This past weekend was absolutely glorious in Johannesburg and all I felt like was walking around outdoors to enjoy the sunshine. However, if you live this city you will know that it really isn’t a walking city. But there is one place that never lets me down when I feel like being outdoors – Emmarentia Dam. Yes, you have to drive to get there, but it is pretty big and usually not too crowded, which is perfect when you don’t feel like any human interaction. (The dog in the photo is not mine – but I did want to steal him).

While I was walking around, it made me think of the most famous of all ee cummings poems – and the one through which I came into contact with in Grade 9. The only thing that was missing was the ‘greenly spirits of trees’ – they were most brown. But it certainly felt like the sun’s birthday.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The photos below are some of my favorites from previous visits to Emmarentia.

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Chase the blues away

Bird in a tree, Paul Roos Park, Johannesburg
I spotted this little bird sitting in a tree at the Paul Roos park in town today when I walked up to photograph the flowers. I think he goes perfectly with the line from this ee cummings poem I read for the first time the other day:

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

I’m still trying to decide whether I want a tattoo with writing, and where, and which cummings poem line I would use…this is one is a strong contender if I ever decide to get it done.

Lady I will touch you

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Just the other day my best friend shared this gem of an ee cummings poem with me that I had not come across before. His erotic poetry somehow always manages to come across with a hint of innocence, sensual not smutty.

Lady,i will touch you with my mind.
Touch you and touch and touch
until you give
me suddenly a smile,shyly obscene

(lady i will
touch you with my mind.)Touch
you,that is all,

lightly and you utterly will become
with infinite care

the poem which i do not write.

Gentlemen, Valentines day may be behind us but I can guarantee that is poem with some flowers sent to the one you love ‘just because’ will make her happier than you can imagine. I don’t think men realise just how amazing it is to receive flowers, particularly for no better reason than because he is thinking of you.

Here are a two more of cumming’s sensual poems that I recommend:

May I feel said he

I like my body when it’s with your body

The second one is one of my top five cummings poems – I don’t have a favorite, just a favorite for different occasions. I don’t think there is a better way to describe how close you feel to someone by saying I like my body when it’s with your body.

Somewhere I have never travelled

I was photographing my globe for Project 365 and it made me think of my favourite (okay one of my favourite) ee cummings poems. His words always feel, not like poetry, not like music but like magical spells to me. I have a beautiful two-part hard cover collection of his poems on my bookshelf – after my camera it is the first thing I would grab in a fire.

somewhere i have never travelled

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

I also went to the Exclusive Books sale this weekend and for less than R120 I picked up copies of Great Expectations (which I used to own but some borrowed it and never gave it back), Tess of D’Urbevilles and The Bell Jar. I do however have about 20 other books which I have bought or received waiting to be read – I have to start catching the Gautrain to work so I have enough time to read.

Some of my finds at the Exclusive Books sale this weekend - Tess of D'Urbevilles, Great Expectations and The Bell Jar.
Tess of D'Urbevilles is mentioned several times in the special note at the beginning of my copy of Madame Bovary, which is why it caught my eye.