Saved all my best books for

when my kid brother grew up,

hoping to discuss Rilke and Shakespeare

and all the best writers in my advanced

Lit courses, what moved me, inspired my

poems, made me wrestle with love and

death and how to make a better world.


I longed for such sharing after reading

about the life of Eugene V. Debs

who grew up listening to train whistles in

Terre Haute, Indiana, where he mentored

his young brother and together they journeyed

on an intellectual discovery, organizing

the firemen on the rail, who stood up to

the robbers in striped suits and gray spats.

Debs landed in jail for his pacifist views

when the world was ablaze with nine

million left deader than upside down crabs.

Wilson, the man who loved peace,

left Debs patiently waited in his cell

to be pardoned by Harding.


When my brother finally grew up he

had no use for school, his only real

interest, a passion for gambling.

A non-stop talker, a clone of Jack Ruby,

he swaggered and blustered from one

job to another, adorned with a five

pound diamond pinky ring.

A genuine fake, a human scagliola, he

looked like a man but masked a child

the size of a sumo who packed heat for

protection. Superstitious as an aborigini,

he wore both a chai and a cross, donated blood

two arms at a time, hoping to rack up some

points with a divine father above.

Train whistles in the night trigger regret

as I let go of my books, resigned to a

soul-draining dance with his "deli" mentality

instead of the brotherhood bond I had wished for.


Milton P. Ehrlich