Job’s Question on Nevis

By Grace Schulman b. 1935 Grace Schulman
“Turn back!” was all she snapped out as she passed   
in a red dress that caught sunrays through mist.   
I saw her lurch upwind, kick off spiked heels,   
climb out to the edge of a knife-sharp rockpile,

and, arms outstretched, lead the sea’s tympani,   
lure the din, guiding the steamy waves   
to shore. Will the Almighty answer me?
she sang out to the ocean’s rising octaves,

as blown palms pointed scarflike fronds to land.   
Earlier that Sunday, she had prayed
to a black Christ in a church on the island,
droned verses for a safe calm, and trekked homeward

to board white louvered windows for the storm.   
She had refused the chapel’s sanctuary
to ask the ocean why the wind ripped homes   
and would again. Her anger captured me,

and stayed when I saw rain gleam on red ginger,   
drench trumpets islanders call yellow-bells,   
and soak ixora. Bonelike bits of shells
and conchs lay on the beach as on an altar.

Silent, I watched her. Under a blank sky,   
where waves broke over coral, in thick haze,   
pitched forward to hear the whirlwind’s reply,   
she shook a fist, then opened hands in praise.

Grace Schulman, “Job’s Question on Nevis” from Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Grace Schulman. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved,

Source: Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)

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Poet Grace Schulman b. 1935

Subjects Religion

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 Grace  Schulman


Poet and editor Grace Schulman was born in 1935 in New York City, studying at Bard College, American University, and New York University, where she earned her PhD. She is distinguished professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY, and served as the poetry editor of the Nation from 1972 to 2006. She also directed the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center from 1973 to 1985. She has published six collections of poetry, including Days of . . .

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SUBJECT Religion

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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