Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow


Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow









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)






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)







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.





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