March 1, 2020

Milton P. Ehrlich — Poems of Rumination

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Milton P. Ehrlich — Poems of Rumination
ONCE

Following orders  
on the battlefield, 
it was kill or be killed  
my sergeant said, 
no different than  
when he taught me 
to thrust and parry  
with fixed bayonet. 
The young soldier 
wore thick glasses 
and looked a lot like   
one of my classmates. 
Sergeant claimed 
Gooks don’t belong 
to the human race. 
Don’t ever feel sorry  
for killing an enemy, 
I can’t forgive myself. 
I look down at my finger, 
ready to squeeze the trigger, 
and hear my mother asking: 
What has become of you? 

**

THE MARITAL HAPPINESS QUOTIENT 
 
I Uber my way across the country 
in my Hugh Hefner silk pajamas 
to study happiness in marriages 
of all my old friends who are still  
walking and talking coherently. 
Computer porn ended a few bonds 
that had once bloomed like a flower. 
For those that served breakfast in bed, 
a lotus blossom was de rigueur for a Buddhist  
notion of purity, harmony and grace.  
They smiled a lot for the passion of desert, 
convinced their 5 and 10 cent wedding ring 
was worth every penny, showering each other 
with endless words of endearment,  
like “You are my one and only tootsie-wootsie!” 
The crankiest couples no longer engaged 
in conversations—merely ranted about 
how their mates didn’t listen to them. 
The most miserable couples were victims 
of the corrosive impact of the rusted 
barbed wire of prolonged celibacy. 

**

 
UNINVITED GUESTS 
 
If my doorbell rings, and I’m not expecting anyone, 
it’s almost always a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses 
who make their rounds in my neighborhood to promote 
their religion, and often leave a Watchtower Magazine. 
They’re certain Armageddon predictions are on the way. 
Only 144,000 “Anointed ones” can enter God’s invisible dwelling place. 
If they are correct, and I become a believer, 
I can stop worrying about saving for retirement,  
and contributing to 529 for my grandkid’s education. 
I can go back to eating at Wendy’s and MacDonald’s,  
and will no longer shop for Christmas and Easter 
or have to remember to floss my teeth.  
But, if I need a blood transfusion, I can kiss my ass goodbye. 

**

MY BRAND OF LONELINESS 
 
is much better than your brand of loneliness. 
I’m a Marlboro man, sipping a lemon Coke— 
an impenetrable moat prevents anyone 
from ever getting close to me.  
I suffer alone in ways that haven’t yet been invented. 
If you knock on my door, I won’t let you in. 
I’m addicted to the joy of suffering— and cherish all my sorrows. 
Please leave me alone.

**

IN A QUEST FOR ANSWERS 
 
After celebrating my wife’s 89th birthday, 
we googled a man who knows answers 
to all of life’s fundamental questions. 
He lived far away, and parking was impossible.  
I left our car alongside a moat guarding a castle. 
Screeching white egrets patrolled the grounds. 
A longtime hiker, I could walk around the world, 
but my wife was increasingly fragile, 
so we decided to hitch a ride—something  
I haven’t done since I hitched to college in Iowa City. 
We got picked up by an 18-wheeler truckdriver—  
a woman with eyes as black as explosive licorice. 
Flabbergasted, at her insights, butterflies  
flew out of my mouth as I marveled at her ability  
to turn our lives inside-out—like an Indian Fakir 
making a venomous cobra rise at his musical command.  
I tried to thank her, but she drove away,  
and left us resting on a bed of pheromone-scented  
paperwhites, where rain never touches the ground,  
on what was to become our new home married to the earth. 

***

Milton Ehrlich

Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 88-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published poems in, The Antigonish ReviewLondon Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. This is his first feature in The Fictional Café.

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#marriage#poetry#religion#war
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