How that last line recasts the whole poem, makes you want to read it again, so you might journey through the winter, carry the pears, find a feather, trek home and land once more – ah – in that tiny pool of sunlight…. New York poet Grace Shulman is a professor of poetry who contributes to the New Yorker, plus a winner of many prizes including the 2016 Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry. Shulman names Dante, Walt Whitman and John Donne as well as celebrated 20th-century American poet Marianne Moore as among her influences. She met Moore as a teenager and went on to write about her and edit her poems. Of Moore, but it might just as well have been of herself, Grace Shulman writes: “Art does not ask fidelity to life, but ardent precision.” O, that sun in the crook of your arm.  

Crossing the Square (2002)
by Grace Shulman 

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.

Main image: Photograph by Ralph Walker of snowball fight between students at Thorpe Gordon School in Missouri. Date unknown