Grace Schulman

The Rainbow Sign, The Shirt and After All
June 20, 2020 Schulman Grace

The Rainbow Sign


God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time.


Like cotton candy, spun of cloud and air,
two ribbons slipped from yardage under the earth
spooling out brightness past a sea of shipwrecks.
Yesterday’s hurricane spun through the village,
shattering panes, burying cars in sand,
splintering a neighbor’s wooden pier,
its piles still jutting up like broken molars,
wrenching wires, screaming of loss.
Blackout. Our faces flushed in candlelight,
we watched nerve-ends of lightning shock the windows
and questioned wall shadows for predictions.
Today, the rainbow sign, God’s weather news:
The waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all flesh.

Relief? Well, promises,
the longing for belief that comes in language
clear as in a child’s coloring book:
violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red,
upgraded here to lilac, cobalt, clay,
new life green, wheat yellow, and magenta.
Rainbow, heal the world with sudden light.
Let us drive into bars of tinted gauze
then hide indoors until the fire next time.



The Shirt


Your blue shirt calls me from a closet shelf
above boxes of herringbone caps, sandals,
and a leggy tripod, telescope missing.
I think of Daisy when Gatsby crowed
I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes,
flinging them in a color wheel of coral,
lavender and green, until she sobbed
I’m sad because I’ve never seen such –
such beautiful shirts.
And so today
tears falling on a massive azure tent,
cuffs big as yawns, its silky cotton
chuffing like a sail in high wind,
I watch the color alter in the light
from sea to sky to ice-blue, and a hint
of ultramarine. And I remember
after we were married — low on funds,
high on our new lives in cramped rooms —
how mornings you’d nuzzle your shirts,
a pride of rainbow checks and tiny stripes
piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high.
I celebrate you, shirt, for long life,
descendant of the world’s oldest garment,
a shirt found in an Egyptian tomb,
pleated to flow free. And now I tunnel
through the craterly collar of shirt,
dazzling immortalizer that knows our bodies,
and frays only after we are gone.


After All


What is it like? You study a hydrangea
that glows lace-white then mauve, and count the whorls
in an oak’s huge trunk, split by a hurricane.
You soar with a hawk, not wishing you could fly,
and clamber on the walk in sudden joy.
You linger, seldom glancing at your watch.
You walk to the Hudson River at dawn,
watching a terrier grow out of fog,
and tawny-red bricks that had been blurs
of townhouses the days when you’d whizzed past.
You gaze at them in your own
three-dimensional fullness, unbound,
and you feed the self that you had long neglected
for other selves, the one that knows you best,
and watch the soul burst into sudden bloom,
magenta, like azaleas, and grow larger
when the body lessens.

Grace Schulman‘s newest book of poems is The Marble Bed, ws published by Turtle Point Press in October, 2020. Her previous collections include Without a Claim, The Broken String, The Paintings of Our Lives, For That Day Only, Hemispheres, and Burn Down the Icons. She is the author of Strange Paradise: Portrait of a Marriage, and First Loves, a collection of essays. Schulman is recipient of the Frost Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Other honors include five Pushcart Prizes and the Aiken-Taylor Award. Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y., she is editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore. She is a former Poetry Editor of The Nation (1971-2006) and Director, The Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y.