Me, Me, Me
James Schuyler put anything in his poems—especially himself
by James Schuyler
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
$28.00 List Price
Toward the end of James Schuyler’s sixty-page, long-lined meditation “The Morning of the Poem,” a voice interrupts the meandering interior monologue: “‘All he cares about are leaves and / flowers and weather.’” The remark is unattributed, but the speaker might be the poet’s mother or sister, both of whom step in and out of the poem. Regardless, he or she is different from the “you” addressed next, without even a sentence break:
and who are you, which
Maple are you I mean, the one who curves its leaves like hands,
disclosing pink palms . . . ?
Where are we, and what are we doing here? We know that Maple isn’t a nickname for his sister or mother, because this new “you” is scientifically identified: “A swamp maple . . . whose leaves turn first.” Once the tree is tagged, and a separate species of maple recalled (“deeply blazing / Full in late summer”), the flow of memory and perception continues its twisting path:
The other evening my mother and I were watching TV in the living
room when something fell, a metal clang on the
Back stoop. I went and put the outside lights on and looked:
the trash-can lid had been knocked off and
Perched on the can full of trash was the biggest raccoon I’ve
ever seen: he turned his head and looked me
In the eye . . .
Mother is disbelieving: “‘Maybe he / Was a dog,’ she said, deep in her TV program.”
We are in Schuyler’s head, tracking the mind’s inconsequentiality, but an inconsequentiality that is being processed into “the poem”—or, to apply the definition of poetry favored by Schuyler’s first
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