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