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
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
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.
Thanks to the wonders of chemotherapy,
my hair is leaving my scalp
first, in small familial strands
then, en masse.
The way whites fled Queens
for the island of Long.
The way Jews fled Egypt and Russia
and then Bushwick and Bensonhurst.
What once rested on my head,
between skull and skull cap,
now rests in my shower drain
resembling nothing so much
as a drowned vole,
mocking my vanity and array
of hair care products.
Perhaps, like those of my tribe,
my hair will change its name,
get a dye job and migrate
strand by strand
to a new promised land.
Or, perhaps, after a period of desolation
and abandoned landscapes,
marked by depreciating values,
it will return
finer and thinner than before.
Just look at Williamsburg.
On the Yahrzeit of Ezra Pound
I cannot bring myself to light a candle
for the bastard, as brilliant as he was and,
besides, he would not want my
circumcised prayers in that guttural tongue.
Do his goose-stepping friends deserve a Kaddish?
Perhaps Eichmann merits a novena over his ashes
forever enshrined in the cool Mediterranean.
After all, the butchers are in need of prayers
far more than the butchered. The souls of incinerated
children do not require our intercession. Once baked,
they will pass nicely from ovens into paradise,
bypassing poets fluent in Greek.
Or would the words halt en route after
they had passed over my diseased Kike tongue
and decline to go farther, refusing a direct order
unlike a good German.
No, this is the best revenge.
I will squeeze them out
like a kidney stone. He would have hated the
sanctimonious forgiveness of it.
Flammis acribus addictis.
Voca te cum benedictis.
About the Author
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.
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