my father moved through dooms of love through sames of am through haves of give,
Are you ready for this? Buckle up; it's going to be weird ride.
The speaker starts off talking about his father in the past tense, so we're going to assume that daddy is dead (our condolences).
The fact that this poem is addressing someone or something that's no longer in the world of the living makes it an elegy.
So, what's up with this "dooms of love" that Father is moving through. Isn't love supposed to be happy?
Nope, not all the time, and the speaker seems to be telling us that his father lived a life in which he dealt with the pain that love brings, as well as the joy.
In the next line, we get some patented crazy Cummings syntax.
Notice that Cummings turns "same," which is usually an adjective, into a noun, and he turns "am," "have," and "give" into nouns, too.
There are probably other ways to think about it, but "sames of am" makes us think of the mediocrity that society can sometimes cause individuals to sink into—everyone has the same, boring life, or "am."
Could the speaker be saying that his father fought against this in his life?
The phrase "haves of give" reminds us of all the necessary sacrifices that any parent has to make.
We also notice that these first lines actually have a specific meter, which isn't always a regular thing for our buddy E. E.
It's a meter called iambic tetrameter, and (spoiler alert!) a lot of the poem follows something close to this rhythm. We break it down for you in detail "Form and Meter."
It's all also worth pointing out that these first two lines end with slant rhymes: "have" and "give." See how they don't rhyme exactly, but sort of sound the same?
Cummings uses this all through the poem too, so we won't point it out every time. For more on this technique, check out "Sound Check."
singing each morning out of each night my father moved through depths of height
Now, here's a cool turn of phrase. It's as if the father somehow takes the substance that night is made of and turns it into morning through song. (Too bad he didn't record that one. Billboard Top Ten—guaranteed.)
Could this be the speaker's way of saying that his father found ways to find hope in despair?
It would kind of go along with the "dooms of love" thing, right (1)?
The speaker puts a cap on the stanza by bringing the phrase he opened his elegy with, and plunking down a little paradox to boot.
How can "depths" have "height?" That's kind of weird thing to say, right?
Oh well, life is weird sometimes (have you been to a bus station lately?), and the speaker seems to be saying that his father dealt with it like a champ.
The statement kind of reminds us of how we can all feel small, even when we're at the top of our game.
We also notice that we've got a rhyming couplet with these last two lines: "night" and "height."
While a lot of the poem uses slant lines, you'll see some exact rhymes like this one along the way too.