by Milton P. Ehrlich (Leonia, NJ)
Grandfather did magic
with a tremulous sleight-of-hand.
Cards and coins vanished
before my surprised eyes.
He could do soft-shoe and tap dance
with a cane like a vaudevillian pro.
He loved to tell corny jokes that
he heard on Eddie Cantor’s radio show
and that never failed to amuse him.
We went to the Stanton Street Shul
on Saturday mornings. I tossed
small paper bags filled with peanuts
and raisins at bar mitzvah boys.
The scent of leather phylactery
straps permeated the premises
from the men who wrapped tefillin
on weekdays on arms, hands, and fingers,
as well as on the top of the head.
Afterwards, he shared snuff
with friends, who sipped wine
and relished schmaltz herring
on challah woven together
with strands representing
the unity of Israel’s tribes.
Sabbath lunch: borscht and pitcha,
followed by a chulent, baked overnight
on a coal kitchen stove.
Grandfather had only one request.
He wanted a photo of himself
dressed exactly like his father
in a photo taken years earlier.
When I was old enough to use
a Brownie Kodak box camera,
he got the picture he wanted,
just before he died.
Little did he know his great-grandson
would become a columnist for The Forward,
the only newspaper he ever read
while drinking Swee-touch-nee tea
in a glass with a cube of sugar.
He was just a man, loved, and not forgotten.
What will my grandchildren remember of me?
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D., an 85-year-old psychologist, has published numerous poems in periodicals such as Descant, Wisconsin Review, Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow, Toronto Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and The New York Times.