Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Stanza 7

By Edward Estlin Cummings

Stanza 7

Lines 25-28

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

  • Uh oh, it looks like our hero named "anyone" died one day. But the speaker doesn't seem very concerned, saying "i guess." The fact that the speaker doesn't bother to even capitalize "i" makes it sound as if the narrator's telling us about the death in a quick text message. 
  • At the same time, we learn that "noone" stooped to kiss "anyone's" face at his death. So it seems as though he's mourned by his female companion from earlier in the poem.
  • Line 27, though, says that the folks from town "buried them side by side." We already know that anyone has died, but when we hear "them" we can only assume that "noone" has died with him. This suggests that the female companion either died before anyone did (and, in that case, it was really no one who was there to kiss his face—as in, not a single person). Or, perhaps "noone" died quickly enough afterward to be buried with him and to miss his funeral. That would suggest something like heartbreak or suicide, though Cummings doesn't confirm this one way or the other. 
  • Let's also note how Cummings says that "busy folk" buried anyone and his female companion. This description connects to the general idea that the folks of anyone's town are too busy and too wrapped up in their own lives to care much about strangers. That's the saddest part of living in a pretty how town, it seems. No one cares about anyone. 
  • Line 28 talks about how the busy people buried "anyone" and his female companion "little by little and was by was." This makes sense if you think about the busy people filling in the graves with shovels with a little dirt at a time. But Cummings connects this imagery back to his abstract ideas of time by saying "was by was." 
  • So, how does that work? Well, if a person exists, then they "are." If a person used to exist but doesn't anymore, they "were" or "was." So Cummings seems to be saying that with each bit of dirt that falls on "anyone's" grave, he falls father and farther into the past tense, "was by was."