Poem: “Crossing the Square” by Grace Schulman

A commenter named Nadia posted here earlier this week. I checked out her blog which has a post with musings on and excellent pictures of Washington Square in the snow (she wishes they would finish the renovation already) as well as video of “The Crazy Piano Guy” at the park. She posted this lovely poem by Grace Schulman which I’d never seen before and I’ve re-posted it below.

“Crossing the Square”

by Grace Schulman

Squinting through eye-slits in our balaclavas,
we lurch across Washington Square Park
hunched against the wind, two hooded figures
caught in the monochrome, carrying sacks

of fruit, as we’ve done for years. The frosted, starch-
stiff sycamores make a lean Christmas tree
seem to bulk larger, tilted under the arch
and still lit in three colors. Once in January,

we found a feather here and stuffed the quill
in twigs to recall that jay. The musical fountain
is here, its water gone, a limestone circle
now. Though rap succeeds the bluegrass strains

we’ve played in it, new praise evokes old sounds.
White branches mimic visions of past storms;
some say they’ve heard ghosts moan above this ground,
once a potter’s field. No two stones are the same,

of course: the drums, the tawny pears we hold,
are old masks for new things. Still, in a world
where fretted houses with façades are leveled
for condominiums, not much has altered

here. At least it’s faithful to imagined
views. And, after all, we know the sycamore
will screen the sky in a receding wind.
Now, trekking home through grit that’s mounting higher,

faces upturned to test the whirling snow,
in new masks, we whistle to make breath-clouds form
and disappear, and form again, and O,
my love, there’s sun in the crook of your arm.

-from Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems (2002)

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the linkback Cathryn! Actually, I realized I’ve forgotten to give credit where it’s due: I first came across Schulman’s poem when one of my professors – Bryan Waterman, NYU – sent it out to students. He and one of his colleagues have a class and a blog about New York history and lit. See here: http://ahistoryofnewyork.com

  2. Hi Nadia,

    That makes sense. Thanks for letting me know. I have seen Patell and Waterman’s History of New York blog before and Bryan Waterman has been in touch here in the past. Thanks for the info!

    Keep blogging and good luck!

    Cathryn.

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