A Celebration of James Schuyler





A chimney, breathing a little smoke.
The sun, I can’t see
making a bit of pink
I can’t quite see in the blue.
The pink of five tulips
at five p.m. on the day before March first.
The green of the tulip stems and leaves
like something I can’t remember,
finding a jack-in-the-pulpit
a long time ago and far away.
Why it was December then
and the sun was on the sea
by the temples we’d gone to see.
One green wave moved in the violet sea
like the UN Building on big evenings,
green and wet
while the sky turns violet.
A few almond trees
had a few flowers, like a few snowflakes
out of the blue looking pink in the light.
A gray hush
in which the boxy trucks roll up Second Avenue
into the sky. They’re just
going over the hill.
The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can’t get over
how it all works in together
like a woman who just came to her window
and stands there filling it
jogging her baby in her arms.
She’s so far off. Is it the light
that makes the baby pink?
I can see the little fists
and the rocking-horse motion of her breasts.
It’s getting grayer and gold and chilly.
Two dog-size lions face each other
at the corners of a roof.
It’s the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It’s the shape of a tulip.
It’s the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It’s a day like any other.

James Schuyler, Collected Poems, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1993



Frank O’Hara, John Button, James Schuyler, and Joe LeSueur watching television, ca. 1960.




Letters from Italy, Winter 1954–55,  from James Schuyler to Frank O’Hara
in Jacket Magazine nº29, April, 2006


Nov 7, 1954
American Express

Rome, Italy


Dear Frank,

Just a note to tell you that I’m taking your note to the local tapestry works, where I’m going to have it copied in Parker blue on Sphinx typing paper gray, wall-size. And my idea of wall-size is the northern flank of the UN Building. You’re cute, that’s what you are.
     Anguillara didn’t work out for beans, so I’m established in a somewhat meager, but pleasant, little hotel in Rome. My days are full, fair and fine, but my evenings barren of any sort of intercourse. I’ve become a moviegoer again, if not a bug or fan; it’s like being an opium addict without getting any lift. Let’s see, I’ve seen: Witness to Murder, Mogambo, Ulisee (I saw it in Italian, so that’s what I call it), de Sica’s dud, Stazione Termini, On the Waterfront, From Here to…and a couple of Italian ones I won’t go into. Not to put a fine point on it, I thought them all hell; though many featured nice-lookers caught looking their best. Tonight it’s a toss-up between Danny Kaye, dubbed, or Gerard Philipe, not dubbed. Maybe I’ll just duck over to the forum and worship a heathen idol instead.
     If you don’t tell me what poems you have in Poetry, I’ll — o I don’t know what I’ll do. Gnash my teeth, perhaps.
     Al K [resch] was here, and having so much fun. He couldn’t sit down without drawing, and he vanished one morning into the Vatican before 9, and had a fit when they told him at 2 they were closing. I can’t spend ten minutes there without thinking how far I am from the nearest comfortable café. But now he’s back in Munich. And Bill [Weaver] is in Vienna, as are the boys. (Do, if you haven’t, write Bill: it seemed as though every time we went to Amer. Exp. together, I got a letter from you. Or so it seemed to him! You know how rejectable our young folk are nowadays.)
     This is just a silly Sunday evening note, brought on by your note, which touched me so.

Love,  Jimmy



Tuesday, October 30, 1990

The sky at 6 clear and gray as blotting paper, a sky for which the loud unmodulated grind of a garbage truck is the fitting music on the right instrument.
Tomorrow morning Tim Dlugos is going to be interviewed, and to read part of his long poem just published in The Paris Review, on one of the morning talk shows—”Good Morning America,” I believe it’s called. If only this were not in a segment called “Living with AIDS”! His latest affliction is one suffered only by people with AIDS and birds, which causes his temperature to go rocketing up and up. A line of Stevens kept coming into my mind: “Dying lady, rejoice! rejoice!” How can he? Why should he? Because he’s going to Abraham’s bosom? Bur he’d prefer to stay in his Christopher’s arms.

from The Diary of James Schuyler, ed. Nathan Kernan, Black Sparrow Press, 1997