...In-between sets from poet Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow

March 28, 2021

On Pesach, Uncountable Thanks for Sparing the Lastborn as Well

 My first collection of poetry had about 85-90% of its poems previously published, or awarded, or something along those lines, but there were a handful of poems no one would touch with a ten-foot-pole, and now in reminiscing back on this particular poem, back when it was wending its way to a university journal or a new-ish press or a big famous magazine, for instance, I cannot help but be a- and be-mused over how unsuitable this headpiece was as their slush reading material~ 


Finally: after the battered, powerful red-and-white crane,

operated by a man called Maverick, whose huge hand

I personally shook, was raised seven stories high to the top

of Mayo Hospital, dangling steel beams like matchsticks

but scrupulously set on the roof to install higher space,

making room for even more of the unwell and terribly needy,

the sodomite prostate,

its ruffled capsule battered by voracious cancer

but not burst, and not spread to the thirsty lymph system,

had been yanked like a satanic thing out of there. By spidery robot arms.

The M.D. Ph.D. surgeon operated half a room away, fiddling

a joystick in front of a screen to burn death out of the trunk

of my husband. Yet his hands were small as a girl’s, the fingertips

tapered down like candelabra fine-drip wax. Earlier, he’d carried

a backpack to Pre-op like a high school kid on his way to first period.

Doctor doctor, I prayed and held my breath. When a terrible storm blew in

a nurse hovered over my husband, said to the medical team, If the electricity goes

I tell you that wife will be barreling through those operating room doors.

Doctor doctor, whom I could crush with one passionate hug…

five hours later he entered the little consult room

to tell me the surgery couldn’t have gone better. I swore

at the cancer, at the prostate, who we’d nicknamed Ernie,

Ernie the bad seed, and I made him tell me

three times how it had not spread, the nerves intact,

and I believed I would be able to make love to my husband again,

because he was there, alive, and his beautiful penis

might know erection once more, because I was selfish, and torn;

death had passed over this one day

our very house. I kissed the right hand of our surgeon

as if he embodied some mythical conception, the finite hand

that processed medicine and technology through the belly

of a simple man so that he could come home, and I

granted the privilege to shut the widow’s door, an empty room

with only a straight-back chair. The doctor then was up out of his seat,

would stay no longer, someone else was under anesthesia.

That person required attending.


This poem appears in The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor.