Putting the E E in Ectoplasm

Yesterday was a disaster. I had to sluice it off me with soap, but still some of its muck remained behind my ears.

Putting the E E in Ectoplasm
Photo by Tandem X Visuals / Unsplash

Yesterday was a disaster. I had to sluice it off me with soap, but still some of its muck remained behind my ears. Damned Tabitha. Damned James. These little slices of digital humanity, making me feel as though I needed to shoehorn an e e cummings poem into my week's lessons. I wanted to prove that it didn't need Direct Instruction; I wanted to prove that students had the wit and wherewithal to play, play, play! Damned Havisham. I might as well have been her, for all of my ragged ghostliness during the lesson. Voices writhed towards me, red and scratchily teenage:

The hell does this even mean, sir?

It's not a poem. Nah. It's not. It's just words. What's he even doing.

Cummings. Hehehehehe.

It's just a name.

Yeah, we'll why's he not using capitals. That's bad.

Can we just.

Bells. Hehehehe.

Right. Stop it.

I don't even get poetry.

Poetry's dead.

Is Cummings dead, sir?

You said it with a capital C. You need a little c.

No, I didn't. How do you even say it with a little c, wasteman.
Only cummings would know what's going on with this poem, Jesus.

Cummings. Hehehehehe.

I've already told you.


So, today I try again. Fuck you, Twitter. I'm going full prog. I'm going to immerse them in poetry. I'm going to bring this to life.

I get in early and black out my windows. I arrange the chairs in a big circle. In the middle, I place a desk and on top of that a glass. I on some creaky piano playlist. Standing by the door, waiting for Year 10, I note that it's not exactly a 19th century drawing room. It is as brutally and soullessly functional as any 21st century classroom. But it's mine, and it'll have to do.

When they arrive, Y10 naturally want to know what's going on. I'm a thesp. I keep my voice low, tell them to be patient.

This is creepy.

Why are we in a circle, though.

Those desks are crusty. No sir, seriously, have you seen the gum. Rank.

Soon enough, they're seated. I tell them that we're going to try to look at cummings' poem again.

cummings. Hehehehehehehe.

Shut up, man.

S'funny.

We're going to do a séance.

Why?

Well, you were all so insistent that you didn't get the poem, and that only the poet would know, so let's ask him.

Is he dead?

Yes, he's dead.

We gonna get his ghost here, sir?

Yes. Yes we are. We're going to summon him.

Nah, I'm out of here, man.

Of course, I'm going to be cummings, and they're going to ask cummings-me questions. I can do DI, but it'll be super engaging. A lesson they'll never forget. My performance of a lifetime. I'll do an American accent and everything.

Okay: I need some volunteers.

Hands shoot up. There are a couple I pretend not to see. I pick two of the least worst and guide them to the glass.

Right, fingers on the glass.

They do so, flinchingly.

If it moves, we know he's here, ready to tell us about his poetry.

The second I fingertip the glass, it flies off the table and smashes against the wall.

Shit! Shitshitshitshit

Man, that better not have hit my bag, I swear.

No, seriously, what.

Sir! Sir!

I did not expect that. But I'm a consummate professional. I go with it, intoning: Are you there? If you are, spirit, talk to us.

I prepare myself to channel cummings, to get my mouth around the brassy American vowels. Yee-haw. But there's a lurching within me, a sweating writhing curling nauseatingly up my gullet, but what comes out isn't vomit, but

EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS OPEN BRACKETS OCTOBER FOURTEEN COMMA EIGHTEEN-NINETY-FOUR DASH SEPTEMBER THREE COMMA NINETEEN-SIXTY-TWO CLOSE BRACKET COMMA OFTEN STYLED AS

Erm, sir?

Is this part of it?

Hehe. Cummings.

Shut up, bruv.

OFTEN REGARDED AS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN POETS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY STOP CUMMINGS IS ASSOCIATED

and i can't stop

i am standing in this room, mouth wide open, speaking in this monotone

LIFE SQUARE BRACKETS EDIT SQUARE BRACKETS BREAK EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS WAS BORN

oh god oh jesus oh god

PRIMARY SUMMER RESISDENCE SUPERSCRIPTED SQUARE BRACKET FOUR

and i can't stop

direct instruction is happening in spite of me

He's been doing this a while.

Should we get someone?

Shut up, I'm learning.

but now i know what's coming

(cummings)

he wrote 2,900 poems

anyone lived in a pretty how town

(with up so floating many bells down)

spring summer autumn winter

he sang his didn't he danced his did.

and now, i dance my did

i reaped my sowing and went my came

sun

moon

stars

rain