Tag Archives: love at first sight

‘If strangers meet’ by E.E. Cummings

If strangers meet
life begins-
not poor not rich
(only aware)
kind neither
nor cruel
(only complete)
i not not you
not possible;
only truthful
-truthfully, once
if strangers(who
deep our most are
selves)touch:
forever
(and so to dark)

 

I love this poem because of the way it describes a chance meeting between two people, and the connection that can be made between strangers. This poem always makes me think of strangers on a bus, or on a train; it makes me think of the recognition we can find in a chance glance exchanged — the innocence that exists in that moment — before we know anything about the person — before judgement can interfere.

You could also read the poem as showing us a sort of “love at first sight” moment, which is truly touching. In the moment the strangers’ eyes meet, their owners are no longer “poor, not rich/ (only aware)”. The self has been forgotten and each person is only aware of the other and nothing else. The strangers, in this moment, are neither “kind” nor “cruel” but “only complete”. This part is so beautiful because it delivers the idea of how, when we connect with strangers (on a bus for example) we recognise instinctively — in the split second before all our baggage and judgement and personality interferes — a fellow spirit and inhabitant of this world.

The fleetingness and sense of chance that pervades the poem (note the title: “If strangers meet”) reminds us of the rarity of humanity recognising itself in others. It might only happen “once”. But when strangers, “who/deep our most are/ selves” — who are the same as us, at the core — “touch”, then it is “forever”. There is something divine in this recognition that makes it eternal.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh