My brother Tim meets e.e. cummings

“I forget how I learned where he lived; their phone was listed under Marion Morehouse. I went to Patchin Place and knocked. Marion told me the way it worked was I write them a letter and then they invite me. I did and they did. Later they told me how Allen had knocked and Marion told him how it worked and he kept saying But I’m Allen Ginsberg! I wrote Howl!

“We got off to an auspicious start. There was a painting of a horse pulling a cart of flowers over the mantel and I said immediately The Dream Horse! cummings was pleased; he’d written the poem and painted the picture and no one had spotted it before.

“I’d see them whenever I was in New York. It was sort of ritualized.  They’d serve tea with rum in it. When it was time to leave boom, you were in the hall, they worked as a team.

“I remember almost nothing said. When he was in Spain he was watching some men and a mule on a road on the other side of a valley and a shell came down and they were just gone, poof. He was walking me to the Christopher Street subway and showed me where Dylan Thomas slipped on the ice, drunk, and hit his head on a building while he was walking him to the subway. He worked out for me once how much money he’d made from poetry during his entire life before the Harcourt Collected Poems came out (which was just before I met them), it wasn’t much. He told me Djuna Barnes lived at the end of Patchin Place, they saw her sometimes. I asked him what he thought of Robert Lowell but I forget what he said. Really almost nothing. He said Eliot personally was very funny.

“Marion took me upstairs once and took pictures of me. She had a Leica and went Move click Move click for 50 shots. The only one of those left would be in the Poetry files.

“I’d write and get postcards back, about my young ladies, YLs. He wrote Greek on his typewriter, doctored with a pen; I remember eXuvodepm. I’d read them and throw them away until Felix Pollock found out and, appalled, gave me an accordian file for correspondence, unfortunately lost in its turn.

“I was to meet my then YL Karen at Christopher Street and take her to meet them. She didn’t show up. I called her from their house. She’d figured I lied so much this was probably just another one. Finally she came down and first off asked cummings a series of specific and intimate questions she’d prepared. To make sure it was really him. . .

“Marion called him ‘cummings.’ She was still beautiful.”

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About Jessica Renshaw

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