American Poetry
for Students of English Worldwide

..............Jack Kimball.............

A Complete Story:
Cause and Effect with JAMES SCHUYLER

Have you ever noticed how one detail can be the "cause" effecting everything around it? Have you ever seen flowers "make" a room? When we say "make" in this sense, we mean the flowers "make the room, and everything in the room, beautiful." Usually our rooms at home are filled with everyday objects and things from the past; in looking over our rooms and looking out the windows, we are sure to find many causes and effects that make "a complete story," or a complete "painting" or a complete "poem." James Schuyler finds many causes and effects in the following "window" poem.


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-sized lions face each other
at 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.

The following are words that appear in February. From your reading of the poem, suggest NEW words that mean the SAME as these:

1) motion _______
2) flesh _______
3) roll _______
4) jogging _______
5) violet _______
6) hush _______
7) streaks _______
8) boxy _______

Decide if the following are TRUE or FALSE.

1) "Copper" is a color and a metal.
2) "Steeple" means "spire" (usually on a church).
3) "Takes out" means the opposite of "works in."
4) "Resting comfortably" means about the same as "jogging."
5) "Rocking-horse" means "racing horse."
6) "Stems" and "leaves" mean the same.
7) "Streaks" means "lines."
8) "Blow" and "motion" mean the same.

For the following quotations choose the MORE APPROPRIATE meaning.

1) "breathing a little smoke"
(a) gasping from fumes
(b) exhaling vapor

2) "the temples we'd gone to see"
(a) ancient halls we had visited
(b) places we had worshipped in

3) "I can't get over"
(a) I can't tell you
(b) I can't stop being surprised

4) "It all works in together."
(a) It blends.
(b) It cooperates.

5) "gray hush"
(a) sad secret
(b) dark quiet

What cause the UN building to "move"?

From re-reading February, what do you think is the effect of light on snowflakes?

How are tulips like clouds?

What causes the speaker to say "I can't quite see in the blue"?

Is the sun out? How do you know?

Is the speaker in the country, suburbs or the city?

What is February to the speaker in the poem?

After re-reading this poem, what is February to you?

Look around the room you are in or imagine another room. What is happening? Take some notes:

What causes the noises (or silence)?

What causes the light and shadows: Full moon? Bedlamp? Clouded sunlight?

What effects does the light have on objects in the room, and on you?

Make a list of everything you can see and hear outside.

What makes it light or dark out?

Are there trees outside? What causes the leaves to move and change their colors. What effects do they have on birds and the sky and you?

What person or event does the room remind you of? Why?

What time of day is it?

Look at one object inside or outside and describe its shape in detail. (Exaggerate if you wish!)

Write a poem from your notes.

More Information

Other Poets