Joy began with a cerulean sky
and breaths of grass, sweeter than subway odors.
My mind was playing over the warm hard runs
of Sonny Rollins on tenor sax,
in rhythm with the roll of a wooden pier,
brash kids beside me, gleaming wet in sun.
Urgent yet serene, his tones kept hidden
what I’d read of his early addiction.
Crime, jail. Overcome. No lasting harm.
Lifted, perhaps, by someone’s sturdy arms.
Savoring the single notes and lulls,
risking the wild delight of his “Gazelle,”
I knifed into the lake, seemingly tranquil,
limpid, with emerald weeds. A sudden whirl
pulled me around. I swam, steering upward,
and turned — the wrong way. Blue pain. My head
hit the deck’s underside, no space to breathe.
I thought the tide would suck me down to mud.
No, someone saw. Sturdy arms dragged me up,
changed, knowing how close bliss was to dread
and how it must have been to yell for help,
hear no sound, and scream through your horn instead.
Among her other honors are the Aiken Taylor Award for poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, and five Pushcart Prizes. About her poems, Harold Bloom has written, "Grace Schulman has developed into one of the permanent poets of her generation." Schulman is former director of the Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1974-84, and former poetry editor of The Nation, 1971-2006.