Grandma’s Soap

When grandma came to live with us

she took over the reins as Commander-In Chief.

Hence forth only kosher soap was to be used,

a spiritual wash for glasses and plates.

Every day after school my very best friend,

John Lawrence Thomas O’Toole came to my house

for a glass of milk and mother’s mandelbread

with cinnamon and raisons, honey cake and rugulah.

At the Church of the Immaculate Conception

John’s priests preached the Protocols of Zion.

With a fabricated view of Jews, he looked for horns,

hammer and sickle and wondered where I hid my gold.

Perturbed at the sight of film on glasses

he’d bolt for the sink to scour them clean.

Soap was always in short supply since it could

only be bought on the Lower East Side.

Stunned by the crazed rant from Bertesgarden to Buchenwald

John couldn’t believe that soap was being made from human fat

and lampshades were designed with tattooed skin. How could

ordinary Germans be willing perpetrators in genocidal killing?

Grandma’s soap was tallowy, translucent white with pale blue

letters in Hebrew in the middle of the bar. We drank from old

Yarzheit glasses after the wick and flame, body and soul

was extinguished, memorializing the dead.

Now our glasses are dishwasher clean, sparkling in the sun

with a delicate luster as we search for soap that is biodegradable

and phosphate-free. How did the ancients know the Star of David’s

fragrant lemon eucalyptus soap was bound to be “green?”

Milton P. Ehrlich