Edward Nudelman’s full-length poetry collections include Thin Places
(forthcoming, Salmon Poetry, 2021), Out of Time, Running (Harbor
Mountain, 2014), What Looks Like an Elephant (Lummox, 2011), and
Night Fires (Pudding House, 2009). Poems have appeared in Rattle,
Cortland Review, Valparaiso Review, Chiron Review, Evergreen Review, Floating
Bridge, Plainsongs, Penwood Review, Poets and Artists, and many more.
Awards include: finalist in 2019 I International Poetry Contest, honorable
mention in 2019 Passager Poetry Contest, Second Place for the Indie Lit Awards
Book of the Year (What Looks Like an Elephant), and Semifinalist for
the Journal Award, OSU Press (Night Fires). A native Seattleite,
Nudelman is a recently retired cancer research scientist, and owns/operates a
rare bookshop (est. 1980) where he lives in Seattle, with his wife, dog and five
When grandma referred to her ancestors
slaughtered in Eastern Europe’s pogroms,
her sugaring of zuchten increased,
til it flavored nearly every other word,
as she moved through her narratives,
long sentences in broken English
laced with the word, zuchten.
She emigrated from Poland before the first
World War—the eldest of her family,
beginning work at nineteen across
from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
When she spoke of the Holocaust,
it was zuchten taken, and zuchten lost,
all of which I could sympathize with,
so much lost sugar—but zuchten
butchered and slaughtered, left me
bewildered, hungry for knowledge.
She was sweet then, and docile through
ninety-two; till one day a space heater
ignited her bathrobe. I got the call
at work, just blocks from the hospital,
but when I got there, she was nearly gone.
I held her hand until she passed away,
remembering how I mistook all her
zuchten for sugar—but it turns out,
the word properly denotes
a sigh, or a brief pause of grief,
not a placeholder, but a song of lament.
Without warning my father would drop everything,
load me into the Chevy, peel out across town,
to a country with no women, only men with grubby hats
and gloves, roaming the shabby earth with shovels
and brooms seemingly inadequate to their task.
The dumpsite road was full of potholes Dad would swerve
to miss, spilling garbage, turning scrap metal into projectiles.
He jerry-rigged a small trailer to our station wagon,
with a loosely fitting chain that would vibrate and tug
as he accelerated, yelling Fishtail! Fishtail!, as I grabbed
anything to anchor me—the seat cover, an armrest,
or his muscular arm—trying to hang on, but not really.
Walter the Waiter Turns Literary
Losing his mind today at the Bar and Grill, Walter served
a zeugma instead of cheesy fries, leaving his job in the
blink of an eye, juxtaposing his diction, I quit, forsooth, I
quit! A veritable anaphoric explosion, as he backed away
from the table, invoking ironic suspense, and litotes—a
feat of no mean importance, for a man of his mien and
stature—a man not five feet tall, of low birth, whose
colloquial speech he hadn’t exceeded, whose sentences
invariably ended in, Man. A budding genius everyone
praised—everyone, except Ethyl, his wife, whose boss
was crafty, and gave her his job—but later that night she
still chewed him out royal. Imagine if you can, Walter in
his bathrobe, in the chill wind of his woman’s
disapprobation, taking it as Hemingway or even Keats
might have, prosaically on the chin, Man. He said he had
some writing to do—a book about murderers and escape
artists, full of irony and sweeping plot twists—an
allegory on the condition of man, no less! He already had
the ending, but not the rest of it, he said sadly, Man.
I can’t help checking constantly
how many likes my dog photo got.
I can’t resist re-sharing this meme,
dressing up my avatar for clickbait.
If angels can dance on the head of a pin,
what happens to struck match heads?
What value in lighting up the world
with arguments that smoke and sizzle?
Ah, the significance of insignificance.
I’m starting a group that no one can join,
including me. It will be the loneliest
spot in the world, and the most hallowed.
She spoke of the holocaust
in the same way she spoke of making eggs.
Pulling back the veil only once for me
as I waited on a wooden chair in the corner
of her kitchen, the smell of rich butter
wafting my way, thickly intoxicating.
The eggs were moist and barely cooked.
Henry mumbled Hebrew idioms
intermittently as she explained it to me.
When she finally sat down,
I learned how many had died.
And how they died.