Past Imperfect · Neil Silberblatt

Past Imperfect · Neil Silberblatt

Leo Rosten used to quote the Yiddish saying: “If God lived on earth, people would knock out all His windows.” After Neil Silberblatt’s wonderful poems, with their acerbic humor, ferocious love of life, and exasperation with injustice, heaven had better get the number of a good glazier – I’d be surprised if there’s one unbroken pane left. — Patrick Donnelly, author of The Charge, and Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, and Little-Known Operas


Excerpts from Past Imperfect

In the Bullpen at Dana Farber

Waiting in the pen at
Dana Farber, a fly ball from
Fenway, getting ready for his turn
at the Green Monster, he tells me
unprompted
of the woman to whom
he was wed for 70 years.

How she made a home to which
he looked forward to returning,
which he no longer calls home.
How she wanted so badly to make it
to their youngest daughter’s wedding.
How she succeeded.
How she slipped away the day after.

Accompanied by his adult daughter,
who squeezes his arm as though
he were a pump and her hand a blood-pressure cuff,
he tells me of his mother who
raised six children
after his father died, too young.

Cleaning his thin-framed glasses which
have become streaked,
and weaving his fingers through his daughter’s,
he tells me of the parachute which
saved his life when he was shot down
over Australia, and how,
at war’s end, he returned home with that silk
from which his wife made a baptismal gown for his
children and their children,
as his daughter extricates her hand from his
and cleans her now streaked glasses.

And, somehow, the subject
of his advanced pancreatic cancer
never comes up before he is
called to swing for the fences.


The Plagues, as Recalled by a Former Slave

The first one
frogs, I think.
It’s been a while – and there was all that wandering.
Never seen so many.
And, of course, we had to get rid of them,
come morning.
Then, they came faster.
Blood, thick, like the Euphrates was menstruating.
Boils, as though you’d been sprayed by hot grease.
And we had to wipe up all that blood
and soothe all those blisters,
come morning.
I remember the last one clearly, though.
The midnight howls of our masters
watching their eldest boys drop like those locusts,
some still asleep in their cribs.
We recognized that howl.
We knew its dimensions.

Not for us this slaughter.
We never prayed for that
kind of revenge.
But we knew who they’d be coming after,
come morning.


Kingdom of Heaven

My ex-husband tells me that I am no longer
a good Christian and cannot enter the kingdom of

heaven, or our former marital home, the
locks to both having been changed, now

that our divorce is final, placing my soul
in jeopardy along with my once immaculate

credit rating. And it’s good to know he’s concerned
about such things, and would he mind

changing the outgoing message on the home
answering machine, since it may tend to confuse Jesus.


Neil Silberblatt’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetica Magazine, The Aurorean, Two Bridges Review, Ibbetson Street Press, Naugatuck River Review, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Canopic Jar, First Literary Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Nixes Mate Review, and The Good Men Project. His work has also been, or will soon be, published in various anthologies, including Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words (Naugatuck Valley Community College, 2013); University of Connecticut’s Teacher-Writer magazine; Collateral Damage (Pirene’s Fountain); and Culinary Poems (Glass Lyre Press). He has published two poetry collections: So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013), and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Neil is also the founder/director of Voices of Poetry which, since 2012, has organized and presented a series of poetry events (featuring acclaimed poets) at various venues in NY, NJ, CT and MA. He is also the host of the Poet’s Corner program on WOMR/WFMR out of Provincetown, MA.


Copyright © 2018 Neil Silberblatt

Cover photograph by Lauren Leja.

ISBN 978-1-949279-03-0

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.


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