His face was full of twitches and tics
with a hemangioma on his cheek
the shape of the Catskill Creek.

The owner of our only candy store,
he lived with his scoliotic old mother
in a few grungy rooms in the back.

We met every week in a dingy church basement
with a bleeding crucifix on the wall.
Pilgrims from Krakow claim he wept tears of blood.

He drilled us like an army sergeant, barking:
“Line up. Left face, right face,
about face, and forward march!”

A master of tying all kinds of knots,
he taught us how to tie a clove-hitch,
sheepshank, sheet bend and bow-line.

He was patient and generous to a fault,
supplying us with an avalanche of lollipops
and licorice pipes at camping jamborees.

After each meeting, embraced in brotherhood,
he became teary eyed,
as he led us in a benediction of Taps:

“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake
from the hills, from the sky,
all is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”

No one could explain why he hung himself
on a lamppost in an alley behind the store
with a perfectly tied hangman’s noose.