“Defunct”- A poem by e.e.cummings



Buffalo Bill’s
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death.

by e.e.cummings

Buffalo Bill is defunct. Which means he is no longer in use or operation? Use? For whom? He was doing great things while alive. He rode a silver-white water-smooth stallion. He broke pigeons, onetwothreefourfive just like that. He was a handsome man. But at Mr. Death he turned blue in the eyes.

The only thing one can do now is to ask Mr. Death a report of what he is like now because he is defunct. He is no longer in use here, you see.

He is like the old gramophone which played such fine music then but is now no longer in use or operation. Presently it is in the attic. We want to know how it is faring there.

So, Mr. Death, will you tell us how you like him?


But old gramophones do not disappear from the attic. Mr. Buffalo Bill is no doubt defunct .But isn’t there an intermediate stage between existence and non-existence, when the object continues to exist but does not perform the functions expected of it or, in other words, becomes defunct?

( inner skepticism)

Cummings did not use the gramophone image. If Mr. Buffalo Bill went for good, what was that to me?