The Sunday Poem: Elaine Schwartz... In a storage room at the Smithsonian

Elaine Schwartz finds her brilliant images in the dusty boxes of a storage room.  The fierce truth of her thought contrasts with the orderliness of these stanzas...stacked in the corner of this page.


Elaine describes her work as "a tapestry of place and political imagination."  Her poems can be found in numerous publications, including the Harwood Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and the online Poets Against the War Internet Anthology.




In a storage room at the Smithsonian

I found Uncle Nate, Yarmulke on his head,
noxious cigar still dripping ash,
the Daily Forward open on his lap.

I found a man of clay resting in eternal silence,
one frozen tear upon his massive face,
a pile of tattered prayer books by his side.

I found a golden dragon, purple smoke rings
escaping from ruby red nostrils,
blood-stained Holy Bible in her claws.

I found Aunt Molly, fleshy arms blue-tattooed,
brown eyes sparkling like marbles,
one of Uncle Nate’s cigars dangling from her lips.

I found the Holy Grail, hastily stuffed
into a cardboard box, labeled, in red ink,
“Do Not Open Until The Millennium.”

I found a well preserved specimen
of Homo sapiens dripping with hubris,
cracked silver mirror in his long bony hands.

I found Pandora’s Box surrounded
by the scattered crumbs of human folly
mixed with shards of love and hope.

I found a brass key, double-locked every door,
hung “Closed” over the entrance
and slipped the key into my pocket.

I found a brass key, double-locked every door,
hung the “Closed” sign over the entrance
and slipped the key into my pocket.



--Elaine G. Schwartz


Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 151

Comment by Margaret Randall on November 20, 2011 at 10:46am

Sitting the the San Francisco airport, waiting for our flight to Tokyo, then on to Bangkok. The Sunday Poem never fails to anchor me to my beloved Albuquerque. In this one, Elaine, you show us that dusty old archives hold the richness of lives if we take the time and trouble to look. I love the images in this poem. I can see the people, feel their dreams...

Comment by Dee Cohen on November 20, 2011 at 3:11pm

Hello Elaine, I've read this interesting poem before and it's good to see it again. I love traveling through the Smithsonian of your mind. So many influences, both good and bad, that combine to make us who we are. I like the ambivalence of your ending. Are they all being locked away or saved for some bigger purpose? Thanks for anther great Sunday poem. Dee

Comment by Stewart Warren on November 21, 2011 at 10:25pm

Each stanza is the beginning of new book.  The key slipped into the poet's pocket is the possibility of better worlds.

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on January 15, 2012 at 6:26pm

wonderful and beautiful and dusty old sacred precious scarey cool--you are such a poetess.  Love the rich tableaux feel of each stanza--fine work xoxox


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