Folly Of Youth


I couldn’t wait to grow up and escape

from the nightmare of childhood.

Safely sequestered in a secret cellar hiding

place in Maspeth, Queens my “roomkie” filled

with fusty smelling mattresses and pillows,

Passover green glass depression dishes,

pots and pans, pup tents for scout camp,

fishing-rods, tackle boxes loaded with

Creek Chub, Pfleuger and Paw Paw plugs.

I hid from the malevolent Wehrmacht,

3400 miles to the East, but to a frightened

eleven year old still too near.


Parents never knew I’d hide away for hours

lost in Walter Mitty day-dreams,

making believe I was all grown up:

driving a load in a bulging Mack truck,

crawling out of a foxhole to hoist the flag

on Iwo Jima, piloting a Spitfire in a do or die

dog fight, climbing Mount Everest to its

glittering icy blue crest while I puffed away

on dried corn silk in a Douglas MacArthur pipe.


Half way through a frigid February night

a Boa Constrictor of black smoke slithered

up stairs; sure I’d set the house on fire I begged

father to call for help, but he was such

a considerate gent, he wouldn’t disturb

neighbors until we could no longer breathe.

When firemen finally arrived, an overheated

condenser furnace fan was the culprit.

Under the waning light of a yellow moon

I hurriedly ditched my stash of corn silk and pipe


Eventually I did grow up and was tapped by Uncle Sam

to soldier at Fort Dix . Supplied with free cigarettes

the barracks filled with smoke, everyone lulled

into the folly of smoking, listening to the “Donkey

Serenade” and little Johnny’s fervent plea:

“Call For Phil-ip Mor-eese.”


Milton P. Ehrlich