Unnumbered Ward

By James Schuyler 1923–1991 James Schuyler
And accustomed ungentle hands of two blue-uniformed attendants
wrap the patient in suffering’s white bed gown
sewn with bright invisible emblems of virtues,
or pinned with them, as with fraternity pins, or mosaic pins,
meaning travel. Has he always only just arrived?
Really suffering, within and without his head
burn hot wires of pain: “I cannot bear this”: and does,
and does the time and place outwardly expound
what is within? To be well, to wear new clothes,
to decimate his wage for a necktie, a scarf or gloves, love
“your magic spell” scabbed his fevered lips, lay
no cold cloths, though to be him bent on him
eyes of those called to selflessness, lonely for more selfish days.

James Schuyler, "Unnumbered Ward" from Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems, edited by James Meetze and Simon Pettet, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by the Estate of James Schuyler. All rights reserved.

Source: Poetry (November 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2009


Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Schuyler was a central member of the New York School.  He was born in Chicago, Illinois and spent his teen years in East Aurora, New York, before attending Bethany College in West Virginia. During World War II, Schuyler served on a destroyer in the North Atlantic and remained in the US Navy until 1947. Before moving to New York in 1950, Schuyler lived for two years on the Isle of Ischia in Italy . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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