Scallop Shell

See them at low tide,
scallop shells glittering on
a scallop-edged shore,

whittled by water
into curvy rows the shape
of waves that kiss the sand

only to erode it. Today
I walked that shoreline, humming,

Camino Santiago,
the road to St. James’s tomb,
where pilgrims traveled,

scallop badges on their capes,
and chanted prayers
for a miracle to cure

disease. And so I,
stirred by their purpose,

hunted for scallop shells
shaped like pleated fans,
with mouths that open and close

to steer them from predators.
I scooped up a fan
and blew off sand grains, thinking,

for that one moment,
of how Saint James’ body

rose from sea decked with scallops,
and of this empty beach
in another austere time.

Unholy pilgrim,
I implore the scallop shell,

silvery half-moon, save us.

Grace Schulman

Grace Schulman

Grace Schulman's forthcoming book is Again the Dawn: New and Selected Poems, set for November, 2022 (Turtle Point Press). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received the Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry. Her eighth book of poems is The Marble Bed and her memoir is Strange Paradise: Portrait of a Marriage (both Turtle Point). Editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore (Viking), she is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y.

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.
Grace Schulman

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Author: Grace Schulman

Grace Schulman's forthcoming book is Again the Dawn: New and Selected Poems, set for November, 2022 (Turtle Point Press). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received the Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry. Her eighth book of poems is The Marble Bed and her memoir is Strange Paradise: Portrait of a Marriage (both Turtle Point). Editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore (Viking), she is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y. 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.