The Turning Point

When we lined up in size places I was always last,

a scrawny little Jewish kid who ran from pug-nosed giants

with parents from Cracow, Düsseldorf and Donegal.

We lived above grandma’s store moving every year or two.

The new kid on the block ran on and on, pursued

by beefy bullies from Canarsie to Corona, unnerved by

melancholy zither music in recurrent nightly dreams.

In panicky slow motion I fled through dead end

streets, gasping purple face, soaked in glacial sweat,

as shadows turned to wildebeests

silhouetted on whitewashed walls.

Where have all the good guys gone? I’ll know them when I see them.

With luminescent eyes and a supernova glow they’re unable to say “me, me, me,”

just: “What can I do for you?”

Their radiant hearts are always open like clones of Alyosha,

mere witnesses to wart-hogs, nemesis of my childhood,

with self-serving hearts dark as black obsidian they can only say: “mine, mine, mine.”

If and when the bullies of my childhood re-appear, I’d like to be more equanimous,

transcending rage and fear like Pope John Paul who forgave his malevolent assassin.

My brain will take a vow of silence and I’ll hoist a Nil Illegitimi Carborundum flag.

Surrounded by the open hearted, my days will not be half so bad as I rest my frazzled bones

and settle down to quietness assured that in being present for solitude, whatever it is will be taken care of.

Focused on a nanosecond turning point between breathing in and breathing out, I’ll learn to practice loving

kindness, open to embracing all mankind for better or for worse and when night falls

I’ll be slumbering in peace.

Milton P. Ehrlich 199 Christie Street Leonia, N.J. 07605