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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Uncle; The Familiar Stranger; Skeleton Tree

By: David Schwartz


You have been

Idling in red light and

Urgency. You know you

Are late. Life is late

Nights, then friction

As the sun rises, scalds

The fury and distance

Of empty space(s),

And explodes too soon 

No matter

When it explodes.

“This is the tumor,

Rock hard and bulging

From my stomach, that will

Kill me,” he says. 

“Feel it,” he says. And 

The next time I

See him, his nova

Eyes will be suspicious

And feral, and will not

Relay my features

To his brain in familiar data

Nor will they attach

Love to this parting


The Familiar Stranger

I have seen you

Twice today, and not at all

With valid senses. Of the bodies

I have seen, not one is yours,

Much less mine. 

Not one throat 

has opened with 

Force enough to launch

A syllable. And I

Wonder if I know this woman

Less for calling

Her by your name. 

Skeleton Tree

The valleyed eyes and careworn mouth of 

A skeleton tree

On which the fingers hang 

Like leaves—like bones

Below the skin of a chest

Too shrunk at the seams to

Breathe. He moans,

Hoping to expel the desert, which like sand in

An oyster grinds

And agitates without end but

Unlike an oyster, forms nothing—

Were pearls ever worked for? 

All things are

Stolen—by or from. 


David Schwartz is an emerging writer from Northeast Ohio whose work typically focuses on myth, folklore, and biblical storytelling. He holds a B.A. in English from Baldwin Wallace University. His work has been published in journals including The Mill, The Underground, and Fiction War Magazine.

"My poem, "Uncle," was drafted one morning after I arrived late to work. This was only a few weeks after my uncle's stomach cancer had killed him. And I felt that my hectic, angry commute could be compared to the hurried life that my wealthy, bachelor uncle had lead before his death. Then, seeing this, I began to consider life as a limited action bookended and compressed by mortality. So, as I revised this poem, I tried to explore the relationship between achievement and death-- between ambition and docility. Ultimately, I wanted to capture a sense of strain-- like some violent, productive chemical reaction.  I like to say that "Familiar Stranger" (We Are Familiar Strangers) is a piece that I wrote accidentally. One afternoon, while trying to work on a short story in the atrium of the Cleveland Museum of Art (my favorite writing spot), I found myself missing a former romantic partner. And, of course, everyone began to look like her after loneliness took root. So I took a break from my story, bought a glass of whiskey, and wrote the first draft of this poem. I wrote "Skeleton Tree" a few months after finishing my undergraduate degree. For me, this period of time was disorienting and painful. It resulted in a months-long depressive episode that entailed plenty of writer's block and a shortage of artistic productivity. One of the few pieces that came out of it, though, was "Skeleton Tree:" a poem about broken structure, decay, and the frantic search for relief-- for catharsis or answers of any kind from any source."


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