School Days


Hissing steam enters my nightmare,

a frigid winter solstice, icicles, glacial prison bars

silhouetted on my window.

Unwilling to leave my bed, mother warms school clothes

on the percolating hot radiator.


The great depression dragged on, bleak hours,

marasmic days, famished men tremulous,

vainly search the sky awaiting the hangman's noose.

Neighbors on "Polack Alley" huddled in dark railroad flats,

choleric Poles and Germans, a sausage smelling world

of Krakow kelbasi and pirogen, sauerbraten from Dusseldorf.


Home of the "National Hall" where the German-American Bund

marched and ranted and drank kegs of beer.

Distant sounds of Krystallnacht could still be heard,

demonic rage unleashed, Zyklon B the gas of choice

for the "Final Solution", unanimously approved

at the Wannsee conference.


A marathon run to school, predatory packs of rabid youth

with Rottweiler faces figured I was fair game.

Scrambling up the school yard steps, a kindly school principal,

a wacky Rosicrucian saved me each and every time

from the malevolent gang outside the school door.


Milton P.Ehrlich