Big brother always led the way,

I was his sidekick and shadow.

After he trundled off to school he told me

of the fun he had cuddling guinea pigs,

singing songs, and listening to stories

while having milk and cookies.

Mostly he was good to me except when

he’d try to smother me with a pillow,

heave me out of his room, or keep me

waiting in the hardware store until

I crapped my pants while he scrutinized

bolts and nuts, hammers, and drills.

A leader in the Boy Scouts, he guided me

from Star to Life to Eagle Scout, making sure

I could tie a bowline, half-hitch and square knot,

build a lean-to and Dutch Oven in the woods,

spot poison ivy, oak and sumac, snare and skin

a rabbit or raccoon and locate three stars in

Orion’s belt under the splendor of a starry night sky.

Watching him grow up I learned to watch for

pubic hair, how to shave, tie a tie and smoke a pipe.

He deciphered the labryrinth of a subway map

so I could escort my prom night date to the Copa,-

reminding me to “Be Prepared,” counseling: “girls are

astonishingly sensitive when you touch them down there.”

He taught me how to drive stick-shift, replace points

and condenser, even how to roll the car down hill

when it wouldn’t start and let compression do its part.

He even helped me put out a fire when I poured

gas in the carburetor when our old Dodge wouldn’t

turn over.

Now I have a nightly dream where he’s all dressed up

in suit and tie with cheeks artificially rouged.

He walks ahead of me across the street beaconing me

to follow him.

My pounding heart awakens me as I realize

I’m not ready to follow him just yet.

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