Your mind went double, like these two brass doorknobs
that lead into your house. I tried one. Locked.
Years past you had unlocked my mind to hear
language charged with meaning, and to feel
that sense of sudden growth, and as for rhythm,
the churn, the loom,
the spinning wheel, the oar.
An old scribe quotes King Solomon:
God created our organs in duplicate,
two hearts, two minds.
For you, two loyalties.
No pure homage, then, these lines go double
for the mind that battened on division
as it winced and stirred:
I pictured you
descending from your attic to the harbor
where triangle sails fishermen call lateens
called back ancient boats,
the past made new.
There you were, in your seaside caffè,
listening to wave-sounds while declaiming
in two languages;
for your double-love, a violinist
playing Bach in praise beyond division.
I’d seen you that way.
But now, suddenly,
my hand on an unyielding yellow doorknob,
fiery through the mist, after a storm
had sunk harbor boats
like your once-buoyant
mind, capsized, split, at once I see:
the fascist salute; the love turned sour;
the right turned wrong,
the language charged
with meaning suddenly meaningless, degraded,
madness denied at first, the mind’s locked door.
I pulled my hand back,
fearing the brass might,
as in gilt statues, rub off in my palm.
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.