Excerpt from him, (1927) by E. E. Cummings
Self-portrait sketch by E. E. Cummings circa 1920
him: The average painter, sculptor, poet, composer, playwright is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown's mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.
him: But imagine a human being who balances three chairs, one on top of another, on a wire, eighty feet in air with no net underneath, and then climbs into the top chair, sits down and begins to swing.
me: (shudders) I'm glad I never saw that. Makes me dizzy just to think of it.
him: I never saw that either...
me: Because nobody can do it!
him: Because I am that. But in another way it's all I ever see.
me: What is?
him: (pacing up and down) This: I feel only one thing. I have only one conviction. It sits on three chairs in Heaven. Sometimes I look at it with terror. It is such a perfect acrobat. The three chairs are three facts. It will quickly kick them out from under itself and will stand on air. And in that moment, because everyone will be disappointed, everyone will applaud. Meanwhile, some thousands of miles over everyone's head, over a billion empty faces, it rocks carefully and smilingly on three things, on three facts, on: I am an artist, I am a man, I am a failure. It rocks and it swings and it smiles and it does not collapse, tumble or die, because it pays no attention to anything except itself.
I feel, I am aware, every minute, every instant, I watch this trick, I am this trick. I sway, selfish and smiling and careful above all the people. And always I am repeating a simple and dark and little formula. Always myself mutters and remutters a trivial colorless microscopic idiom. I breathe and I swing and I whisper. An artist, a man, a failure must proceed.
me: This thing or person who is you, who does not pay any attention to anyone else, it will stand on air?
him: On air.
E.E. Cummings Audio links:
"every artist's strictily illimitible country is himself"
let's from some loud unworld's most rightful wrong