It's by e.e. cummings... Sarah told me it's her favorite poem of all time. I didn't even understand the title, so I kept my mouth shut. Then she said she feels that the last line, which goes "Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands," is the most beautiful sentence written by an American in the past 100 years.Aw, come on. There's an entire sequence in "Hannah and Her Sisters" — watch the 4-minute clip here — that begins with a big white-on-black intertitle inviting laughter over the line "Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands." This man — if he really is an electrical engineer (e.e. = electrical engineer) — instead of finding a way to laugh with this girl confesses to the advice columnist that he has "no idea what that sentence means."
I read the poem (which I had to do in front of her, which was scary) and I definitely get that it's a love poem, but if you asked me to explain a single line in it with a gun to my head, I'd be a goner.Such violent ideation. If you're smart enough to be an electrical engineer — which, as noted above, I doubt — you should figure out how to say something like: To me, everything you say is the most beautiful sentence by an American in the past 100 years. Paraphrase it for me. I want to know why it's the most beautiful sentence to you. I want to know how you would say it.
Maybe she'll bust out laughing and say: I was just playing with you. I was thinking what would be the most ridiculous present to give to my electrical engineering guy who doesn't understand the point of being an English major. And I thought: a completely bad poem with a ridiculous line that everyone has been laughing at for years. I'd present it to you in the most bullshit form, in calligraphy on parchment, act like it was a great present, and deadpan that that stupid line was the most beautiful line ever written in English. Oh, man, you should have seen your face.
But, no, his face was the face of a lost little boy. She realizes that her funny setup only revealed his lack of interpersonal skill and humor. If she finds out he wrote to an advice columnist — a female advice columnist — asking her — asking mommy — for help understanding the poem, she'll never be able to have sex with this man.
Back to the letter:
The thing is this was clearly a hugely meaningful gesture for Sarah to give me this poem. It means so much to her. I just didn't have the heart to tell her that it went over my head. I mumbled something about how beautiful it was and that seemed to make her happy, but I felt really bad later.He worries that this incident ruined everything. I think it did — not because he couldn't understand the poem, but because he didn't turn the occasion of failure to understand into an interesting interaction between the two of them. She tried to make something happen, and he was too big of a coward to find out what it was. And then he went to some other lady — an authority figure — for an explanation.
Only after writing that am I reading the advice columnist's answer — although I did do a search to see if she knew "Hannah and Her Sisters." The columnist's answer is kind of like mine, but it's more about gentleness, with the man inviting the woman to explain the poem. She was trying "to bring you into her world a bit... a loving gesture. Don't be put off by it, and trust her enough to respond with gentle honesty."
I suspect this particular man is more capable of the timid gentleness routine than of the more vigorous interplay I'd pictured, but I'm not an advice columnist.
(Link via Maggie's Farm.)