James Schuyler


  The Edge in the Morning (from The Cenotaph)  



Walking to the edge with a cup of coffee.
The sky is red.
That way, the water is blinding.
That way, the water is dusted with sleep.
That way, the water shines as freshly as lead curling smoothly under a
The bay has a skin.
It swells it without breaking like water brimming in a glass.
On its skin and on mine the sun is warm.
The slipping air is thin and cold and cools the cup.
The coffee is cold.
Small fat gray brown birds in the grass bounce up from shadow to shadow.
The false oats are ripened and bearded straw.
The sun strikes them.
They light up.
The quaking grass has collapsed in wire heaps.
It is not what it was.
The edges of the bay are thinnest at high tide.
It is low tide.
The seaweed has pods of air that are like coffee beans.
Out of the silence an engine approaches.
There are tide lines in the cup.
In the brilliance the boat is a dark chunk, bluntly whittled.
It steadily comes nearer.
It throbs.
It moves across the light and turns white.
It pays out two lines that fan and roll and add their action to the surface
            friction between air and water.
The bay is 1) a continuum and 2) change.
In the boat the figure of a man is ingeniously in scale.
A crow laughs.
The engine throttles.
The boat turns.
The ripples are twisted in a knot that shatters and dissolves.
The small turbulence breaks and melts.
The engine cuts to a rale.
The figure of a man turns, steps and bends and draws out of the
            dishonored and neglected grave cold-blooded fury entrapped in
            a lobster pot.
Carapace and claws snapping and thrashing, mottled stormily.
Gaudy shells packed with sweet meat.
The lobsterman turns toward you a face of weathered stone that cracks
             into a smile.
The price is up because the take is down.
He baits his trap and drops it in the sea.
The asthmatic purr chokes and resumes the stertorous breathing of
The boat goes off to grow blue with distance.
The coffee cup has found its way onto the jut of a crag the size of a
The little it holds is cold, bitter, gritty and tastes good.
The air has stopped sliding.
It is a breeze that is more like a wind.
It crumples the bay and stuffs it in a stone pocket.
The bay agitatedly tries to smooth itself out.
If it were tissue paper it would need damp and an iron.
It is a good deal more than damp.
What a lot of water.
A gull barks.
A baby barks back.
Three crows go by about their dark and iridescent business.
The sun is high enough to have its plain daily look of someone who
            takes in wash.
It dries the laundry.
Suppose I found a bone in the grass and told you it is one of Marc
It would not be true.
No it would not be true and the sea is not his grave.
Noble, great, and good:
It is his cenotaph


p.33 in The Crystal Lithium; p.62 in Selected Poems, p. 96 in Collected Poems