“The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions a statistic.”
Statement by Joseph Stalin to U.S. Ambassador William Averell Harriman
as experienced as we are,
we should have developed a liturgy
for such things.
we should have learned
to be more frugal,
lest our cries overtax His ears.
Like the express lane
at Stop & Shop –
a dozen Jews killed in a single synagogue
counts as a single item
which can be swiped with
a single prayer.
A Kaddish for Kishinev.
A novena for Novgorod.
One pater noster to cover the whole entire
But, like those entering this world,
those leaving insist on doing so
one bloody scream
at a time
and each must be tallied
and accounted for.
If – in accordance with tradition –
I rent my garments with each
slaughter, each pogrom, each shooting,
for each victim piled high
like those mountains of glasses
which will never again see.
If – like Job – I tore at my clothes
with each loss.
By the end, I would be standing
naked before you.
And then, perhaps, you might finally notice
that – like you – I am human.
Neil Silberblatt – whose work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies – is the author of So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013), and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His most recent book, Past Imperfect (Nixes Mate Books, 2018), has been nominated for the Mass. Book Award in Poetry. Neil is the founder/director of Voices of Poetry – which has organized and presented a series of poetry events (featuring acclaimed poets) at various venues in NY, NJ, CT and MA.