Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow
AUTOPSY: UPON THE TAMIS TABLE
The long, leathery, mottled man-luggage
is surrounded. They wheel him in smeared, ungroomed
in the clothes he died in. A festive affair
according to the crease of his trousers.
So the haunt that tapped him tapped him good.
Now a blue gaggle of attendants handles him
roughly. He is icestorm stiff but they
will remove all of it. Wedding band,
modest watch, belt and ornate buckle.
Each is numbered, assigned a clear ziploc bag,
carried away. His otherwise white shirt,
monogrammed at the shirttail, yanked and
twisted off. It is hard to think him dead
with the living swirling about him so, the living
throwing up x-rays, taking his fingerprints,
photographing him, aerial view
from the top of a ladder, and crude to stare
at his nakedness. Gentler instead to think of the tussle
the attendants have with his wardrobe: how like the bygone days
of a mud-spattered four-year-old, toy trucks clutched in each hand,
called in from play, surly, resistant to the taking
off of his clothes. Tantrum half a minute
Because a severed carotid artery cannot
be speckled-pupped away.
Because some dark fugue repeats
in the background. The chief wanted it;
the attendants cannot rumble about it.
The perforated tamis table the man-luggage
rests on oozes his ruddy
fluids into a trough-like basin beneath.
Sterilization doesn’t dwell here. Hardware store
pruning shears crack the rib cage
wide open, cuticles of meat stuck
still to the blades. Organs and fat the mystic
clothing he’d packed for his autarkic spree,
here now spread out, circling the terrible hole
of his middle. Kidney socks balled in
on themselves from spatial concerns, cushioned
in fat like pastries. Stomach a dress shirt
folded over then under to lessen
wrinkles. Cropped runt of a left lung
obliging the muscle of all muscles. Endless
astonishing intestine, like the champagne
ruffled skirting around a buffet table.
Burgundy liver, sleek tuxedo shoes
in a shiny bag. Esophagus
a bouquet of glossy pearls. Two or three
globular mysteries, pomegranates
packed for snacks. Peachy
pomegranates. Delicious looking. Soft as heaven.
It happens again today, and tomorrow it will:
The amber-stained cutting board. The old scalpel,
fluted knife, expert hands uttering for the dead.
A restaurant ladle scoops up pooled
blood in the rib cage cavity,
adventive punch bowl at the big
family reunion. Slop bucket
below the table lined with a plastic garbage bag.
The parts of a man sliced and thrown in.
Far away, a bass note fastens the room, long bow
easing over strings for a small forever.
Enter the angels of all our minds.
Before the curly fish needle
pulls him together, the bag is twisted once,
twice, heaved out of the bucket and plopped
down into his middle. Garbage bag and all.
Hey man, here’s your stuff back
Don’t think we took anything much, really
2016©Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow
(originally appeared in The Tusculum Review – published in The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor, Salmon Poetry, 2012)
IF YOU SEE A NAKED ATTORNEY IN THE LADIES ROOM
Don’t tell George. Did we not have one god-awful time
getting order restored the day the racist cookies were solicited in?
His desires to see and not to see are wholly construction,
a ritual laxity of his covenant, and he sees despite himself,
spiraling bombardier in the drapery folds of his mind
the imported wool court suit in a sienna heap
like a deposed flag on the tile floor. The makeup
wands and color pots strewn across sink and counter.
Her prismatic earrings casting lyrical, bewitching light
upon and beyond the winking mirror. The woman herself
bony, freckled chest, breasts the size of hardened
limes, the mystifyingly long, middle-aged hair. And too,
her studied holding of the precisely chosen pen,
its cloisonné entrapment, taking the measure of herself.
Only the earrings left on, and the high-heeled slingbacks
to lift the buttocks like the hindquarters of a doe,
anatomical hammers, with the hint of the fleecy comical, as
in the vigorous moment the creature forefeels, peers
through the leaves of the poplar trees, down
the black ravine, short snorting of the nostrils, the turn
toward, turning back, furious flee from
the undetectable blued barrel.
The naked attorney with relish says no man will demur her charms.
She cocks one pale, diminutive hip, accentuating pelvic
bone, its shallow hollow. In any social room every fellow
has his want, but her heart’s longing not to be trod upon
binds their poor folly so that they end rapturously, loathing her.
And she wonders why the church wives shoot
her nasty glances. Would you tell her something
stamped black confidential arrived from the bar association,
the meter is expiring, and the loutish python has once again
escaped in her young son’s room at home. Coiled around
around and around one pine bedpost, it lazes
indifferent to the brutal mess downstairs.
The boy cannot retrieve his books for school.
2016©Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow (originally appeared in Willow Review – published in The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor, Salmon Poetry, 2012)
POST-AUTOPSY: OR, ALL THOSE CELL PHONES ATTACHED
TO YOUR BELT LOOK LIKE GRENADES
And so now, somewhere, someone is singing.
A man’s ragged voice, but full, with incredibly
tender edging to it. The kind of man a
serious woman takes to a wet bed. I might blame it
on a marvelous night of soft rain
in a tucked-away garden. Or how his hands, like hovercraft
ease upon me weightless. Or that a cool mist
films his entire pale body, and I suck at it. The knot of his nipple
hard and undefended under my pink pink tongue.
His large arms, jaws around my waist. I am
tired of wishing. The embrace is anaconda;
constriction as his want stiffens.
I wonder if a thoughtful reader approached this
brackish thing, would only one question be lashed
and uttered: what is it with hunger? Incomputable effort and time
spent deferring to it, and its guises. A mere vocabulary
of coins to measure it. Meanwhile,
the appointed wait on determinations
of great significance. Letters
slide back and forth between offices. Many mad
waiting. Some in grief. Some anxious on calculated returns.
By tomorrow afternoon, the clear jar of formaldehyde, in it
snippets of organs bobbing, will make its way to a crisp
many-windowed room. Look closer,
I have to go away from this
before I cannot get away. Only to find out
vitally I am nothing special.
a mean burr straddles the top of the microtome.
Hoo wee! No one can read a slide this choppy.
Is there anyone in the entire
building who can make sense
out of this slide.
2016©Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow (originally appeared in Diner – published in The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor, Salmon Poetry, 2012)
Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow’s poetry collection is The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor (Salmon Poetry, 2012). Her chapbook is Old School Superhero Loves a Good Wristwatch (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). She is the recipient of the Tusculum Review Poetry Prize, the Red Hen Poetry Prize, Willow Review Prize for Poetry, the Beullah Rose Poetry Prize and two Pushcart Prize nominations. Her poetry has appeared widely in journals and anthologies nationally and internationally, and she has new poetry appearing or forthcoming in Fourteen Hills, Fulcrum, Narrow Chimney Poetry Series Anthology, and Plume. Her next full-length poetry collection, Horn Section All Day Every Day, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2017.