My friend abandoned me, a bond fractured

by private grievances.

Betrayal could not have been his intention

when he walked away without a word.

Like a phantom limb, no unguent can still

this visceral bruise from twitching

We met the first day of high school,

formed a swing band, jamming in my garage

for the neighbor hood to hear “Take the A Train,”

and “Tuxedo Junction.”.

Hanging out in Manhattan we saw the Bird

at the Royal Roost and George Shearing

blindly caressing the piano.

I taught him to drive, change a flat tire,

he let me shack up in his basement

when his folks were away; we’d stay up nights

with a gallon of Gallo and once figured out

God was just a little yellow ball.

He unraveled the riddles of Joyce, Stevens

and Camus, I paved the way for him to con

the army since I was inducted first.

I sat with him when his beery mother

after two packs a day of Pall Mall

rattled, rasped and wheezed her last breath.

Adrift in a loveless marriage he flip-flopped

and floundered with too many talents to find a right path.

Besotted with booze and home-grown weed

he chained smoked butts rolled by himself

vaporizing into a shadow like a Nagasaki splat

I now scrutinize faces in Grand Central Station

half expecting to find him among the men

who hang out there.

I continue dreaming we meet again and scold him for the years wasted.

I used to think if I was dying a phone call would bring him

to my side, but now I know it would go unanswered.

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