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53 Interesting Facts About The Number 53: poem 53 by e.e. cummings (for Larry Levine)

October 4, 2015


This year I am doing a weekly writing experiment about the number 53. This week’s interesting fact about the number 53 is the poem “53′ by e.e. cummings from his 1954 collection,  100 Selected Poems. 

I decided I wanted to find a poem to honor the life and work of Lawrence Levine who was shot by one of his students on October 1, 2015. This post is dedicated to Larry Levine, and to my colleagues at community colleges across the country who keep their hearts open in the wake of this tragedy.

Like Lawrence Levine, I am a community college teacher of writing who is a poet and loves the outdoors. Unlike Lawrence Levine, today I am alive while Larry is dead —killed by a student who shot his professor in their classroom as well as a number of his classmates before dying of a self-inflicted gun shot.

I chose this poem after looking at verses and poems numbered or titled 53 including ones from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman before selecting this one by e.e. cummings:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
for even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

“53” by E.E. Cummings, from 100 Selected Poems. © Grove Press, 1954 as posted on The Writer’s Almanac.

The event of October 1, 2015 weighs heavily on my mind and questions flood my mind. During this time, may I keep “my heart always open to little birds who are the secrets of living” and as I let my mind stroll about, may I stay fearless in my teaching and for my students.

And may my colleagues also keep their hearts open to hearing the little birds…

Because Larry Levine was a fly fisherman, here is one of my favorite poems:

“Looking For Work”

by Raymond Carver from A New Path to the Waterfall

I’ve always wanted brook trout
for breakfast.

Suddenly, I find a new path
to the waterfall.

I begin to hurry.
Wake up,

my wife says,
you’re dreaming.

But when I try to rise,
the house tilts.

Who’s dreaming?
It’s noon, she says.

My new shoes wait by the door.
They are gleaming.

And because he is gone, here’s another Ray Carver poem for Larry Levine:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Fran permalink
    October 4, 2015 4:55 pm

    Thank you, Gwendolyn. It is indeed tragic what we humans do to one another. Thankfully, a heavy heart can be lifted by such beautiful words.

  2. October 4, 2015 5:01 pm

    Thanks Fran. Poetry– it was what I needed to read on this rainy day.

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