A poem I’ve been pondering is it may not always be so; and i say by E.E. Cummings. It’s a hard poem. A love poem. I see too that Roger Housden picks up on it in his forthcoming book Ten Poems to Say Goodbye.
Here’s an excerpt from Housden’s reflection on this poem:
“…What struck me on reading it was the tenderness and selflessness of the poet’s love for his beloved. Cummings gives us a heartfelt example of how to love even as love is leaving.
He is aware that he may be losing her; that someone else may now be enjoying the intimacy he himself once knew in time not far away. Yet his response is extraordinary:
if this should be, i say if this should be-
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that I may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
I wonder how many of us have been able to bow so gracefully to the very person our beloved is turning toward, even as our beloved turns away from us. Cummings shines a light on the human capacity to truly love. He accepts the way life moves and has its own intelligence. He accepts the reality that we are never entirely in control of the way things go.
In loving what is mortal, we know that sooner or later, the object of our love will pass away, as everything does. Even so, Cummings loves utterly, without reserve. And to let go when it is time to let go – which is often not the time we would have chosen – is perhaps the final, most absolute mark of that love.
And yes, there is a cost. The poem ends with these lines:
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.
A heartrending cry of loss such as this would be moving in any context…”
You can read the full thing here. It’s interesting to read this poem through the lenses of the 9-types of the Enneagram and the way each type holds onto something, i.e. find it hard to “let go”. For example, “...Nines tend to hold onto a belief and felt sense that they are unimportant, insignificant and undeserving of attention, while at the same time clinging to the ego-ideal of being loving and benevolent…” (Sandra Maitri). Another interesting way to sit with the poem is in conversation with chapter 9 (“Endings”) of Thomas Moore’s Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationship.