Looking for e.e. cummings grave, are we?
Well, it is in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. It almost certainly is the most visited grave there, above those many other notables. Almost as certainly, many have considerable trouble finding it. Some may even leave in frustration, map still in hand.
I know the drill and again yesterday led befuddled tourists to the location. Scampering up the little rises, the heavier of the couple said, “You’re trying to kill me.” When she arrived, she said sincerely, “We never would have found it.” They also had no idea that a nearby tree sculpture included seating and a book of his poetry.
What, you ask, can be so hard when you can get a map from the cemetery office, neatly marked with the celebs’ locations?
Pix Tricks: Click on an image for a larger view. This should open in the same window. Use your browser’s back button to return.
The paved ways carry the names of trees (Maple Avenue) or geographical features (Blue Hill Avenue) or burial ideas (Consecration Avenue). The paths are unpaved ways between rows of graves. They get names of flowering plants. Nearly all have plain signs.
This poet’s though lacks a sign at either end of of Althea Path. Even the merging Hibiscus Path has no markers.
This map has south at the top, with Walk Hill Street along the border. I normally enter on foot through the Walk Hill gate. The other entrance is the main gate by the Morton Street rotary. Either way, head for the pond in the middle, grandiloquently known as Lake Hibiscus. Despite the folk pulling on their ears, you are close then.
From Walk Hill, walk or drive straight. Turn left on Larch Avenue at the top of the little hill. By car, park at the bottom of the hill where Fountain Avenue intersects.
Larch has changed names to Hemlock. Walk up half a block to Tulip Path. The next opening in a dozen feet or so is the unmarked Althea Path. Turn right and in a short distance, you’ll see a large stone bearing CLARKE.
From the main gate, you’ll see the bell tower ahead of you. Stay to the right of it on Mulberry Avenue. This curves to the left as you go downhill. At the bottom when you come to the pond, turn right onto Fountain Avenue. Park anywhere beyond the top of the pond (Lake Avenue). Althea path climbs up to the right like a continuation of Lake Avenue. After two tiny rises, look to the right to locate the CLARKE stone.
His grave is in that plot, just to the left of the upright CLARKE stone. The plot belongs to his mother’s family. She descended from John Jones Clarke, Roxbury’s first mayor. He proposed the idea of a burying ground there to the Roxbury City Council.
Tricks number two and three are that the poet does not have a vertical tombstone and that his name appears in full and capitalized — EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS. The stone is flush with the ground. You’ll see it quickly, as it almost always has decorations of stones, flowers, coins and poetry left by admirers.
On your next visit, you may well see confused tourists near the pond. You know what to do.
But, as they say in those late-night ads, you say you want more?
Head back down to Fountain Avenue. Across Fountain, in the middle of the block is an elvish structure in homage to the poet. It is the remains of a sugar maple with an opening cut through it, a copper roof replete with bird, and a sitting area bearing some e.e. cummings poetry. Moreover, it includes a book of his work in a heavy plastic bag in a niche.
This Opening work is by Mitch Ryerson and is part of the cemetery’s excellent sculpture path.
This cemetery is one of my three neighborhood parks, along with the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. I recommend doing an e.e. cummings picnic outing on foot. Forest Hills was build to also be a place of relaxation and contemplation.
If you see me, ask how to get to Eugene and Carlotta O’Neill’s digs a couple hundred yards away. That’s just as hidden, but the stones and flowers left for them suggest a literary few go through the trouble.
While you picnic, recall your favorite e.e. cummings phrases or whole poems. Be sure to include:
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis