laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis

from E. E. Cummings – Since feeling is first on Rap Genius


Life isn’t to be written as words on a page, and the joy of living shouldn’t be stopped by the fear of death, like words stuck parenthetically.

Cummings is telling his love not to worry; their long, full life together is more than ‘a paragraph.’ It’s a near-eternal work that they’ll get to write together.

In the midst of this romantic idealism, Cummings drops in a final line that gently shifts the tone of the poem:

death i think is no parenthesis.

He’s saying that although life is this eternal, beautiful thing, (and what better than to spend it with you, my darling,) its end is brutally finite (and not a parenthetical afterthought.)

It’s a somber note to end on, but it ultimately defines what makes the rest of this poem so poignant and bittersweet:

Girl, don’t worry, my love is unconditional and life is long. But, eventually, it will end.

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