Washington Square, 2020
From my window, I see the world
without us in it: a vacant park,
a silver maple sheltering no reader;
a cherry tree dressed like a bride betrayed,
her wedding canceled; a dogwood tree
whose whites will fall without regretful eyes.
No baby strollers; no candy wrappers
stuffed in bins; just a sign, “NO bicycles,”
and memories of skateboard pirouettes.
Around us, death: the numbers spin the mind.
Fever dreams. The last breath held, alone.
I had not thought death had undone so many.
This park reminds us it was once a field
for the unclaimed dead of galloping yellow fever.
Construction workers dug up skeletons
that had lain for years beneath our footsteps.
Death in the hanging elm, a rooted gallows.
Now the clear air, pollution-free, is poison
for walkers, while trees stand stern, immune.
Sad paradox. For comfort, I recall:
Camille Pisarro would have lingered here.
He painted Paris gardens from a window,
having left his island’s sprawling shores
for tighter scenes — but he gazed at people,
matchsticks from above, in ones and twos.
Below, the park’s unlittered paths are mute,
But wait: just now a mournful, prayerful sax,
unseen, from somewhere, unlooses notes,
calls me to the window, and I hear
the sounds I can’t imagine days without.
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.
Also by Grace Schulman (see all)
- Scallop Shell - May 24, 2022
- Letter from Paul Celan - February 25, 2022
- Confessions of a Nun - February 25, 2022