somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings
Cummings must've had his hands full, juggling all the touch imagery in this poem. You'll find mentions of fingers, hands, mysterious touches, and textures. This motif is knit tightly with some of the others we have here, like flowers and nature, with Cummings blending the images so well that it's hard to pull them apart. The motif also fits neatly with the poem's overall use of paradoxical images. Translation: you get a bunch of references to the speaker being touched by things that are untouchable. At first, it might not make sense, but then if you think of a time you were truly, madly in love, it totally does.
- Lines 3-4: We spot touch imagery early on when the speaker describes his lover's "most frail gesture." It kind of makes us think of her doing something weird with her abnormally small hand, but we're guessing the speaker is thinking of something more subtle and beautiful than that. Maybe she delicately tucks a lock of hair behind her ear? Whatever this tiny flick of the hand is, the speaker is totally wowed by it. The speaker is so into all the things in his love's "frail gesture" that he isn't sure if it they "enclose him," or if there are things in them that he "cannot touch because they are too near."
Don't worry, you aren't the only one had to read this line twice. First of all, how can a tiny gesture totally enclose somebody? And secondly, why can't he touch something that's so close to him? It looks to us like we've got ourselves some deliberate paradoxes. This touch imagery conjures contradictions that place us in the love-dazzled mind of the speaker.
- Lines 5-6: The speaker says, "your slightest look easily will unclose me/ though i have closed myself as fingers." We're guessing the touch imagery here poked you right in the eye. Yeah, that's right: fingers. The digits on our hands are probably the parts of our body we most often associate with our sense of touch. Here, the speaker uses a simile to compare the feeling of being closed off emotionally to the image of the closed fingers. He can't manage to stay closed off around his love, though. All she has to do is give him the "slightest look," and he opens up again. Notice that she doesn't even have to touch him to make this happen.
- Lines 7-8: The touch imagery continues when the speaker describes his love as "touching skilfully,mysteriously." For one, we definitely get a sensual feeling from this line. Skillful and mysterious, huh? Notice, though, that the lines equate this mysterious touching the way "Spring opens/ [...] her first rose." And how is that, folks? Glad we asked. It's with sunlight and rain. So, once again we have an image of him being opened without any literal hands being put on him.
- Lines 13-14: Once again we hear about the speaker's love's "fragility," and once again it's related to touch. This time, the speaker says its "texture/ compels [him] with the color of its countries."
Now, there's a lot of fun but paradoxical stuff here. First, how can fragility have a texture? It's a quality of a person, not something that's tangible. Also, how can a texture have colors? A texture is something you can feel, not something you see, right? Not in the world of Cummings, where senses mingle all willy nilly in a phenomenon called synesthesia. Here again, we see the speaker being touched by things you wouldn't be able to feel in a literal sense.
- Line 17: The speaker smacks us in the face will a little personification in the last line of the poem, saying "nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands." It's personification because he's giving human characteristics to something that isn't human. (We've never seen any rain with hands, and if we did, we'd probably run away screaming.) Once again, the speaker describes himself as being opened by some intangible thing about his love. He compares himself to a flower being opened again, but notice that it isn't the rain that opens him. It's some mysterious, subtle thing with even smaller hands than the rain.