Uncle Elias


When uncle Elias came to town

he showered my brother and me with silver dollars.

His horn-rimmed glasses perched on a prominent nose

magnified two bulging eyes,

his huge waxed moustache made him look like

the man from Istanbul on the Orient Express.


Arriving with a shiny tin quart of foaming draft beer

he would dance the Kazatzka

with both of us on his back.

An eggplant magician,

he roasted it on an open fire,

made a salad with a circle of

calamata olives standing guard.


At five in the morning would rouse us from sleep,

drive across deserted streets to deep sea fishing

at Sheepshead Bay. Taught us how to jig for

mackeral and how to bake a "Givetch",

made of vegetables and fish.

With oodles of chicken fat transported

potatoes and kasha into "Verenikas".

His prize-winning concoction, a "Mammaliga",

corn meal mush cut into portions

with a white cotton thread.


Unable to work during the Great Depression,

wife threw him out, denied him his sons.

After Pearl Harbor, his muscles were needed.

Picatinny Arsenal hired him the very next day.

He loaded ammunition throughout the war,

earned overtime pay and awards for hard work.


Lived as a boarder in an old rooming house,

beery little landlady his only real friend.

When he got old, refused to part with a gangrenous foot,

Simply declared it was over, and waited.

As the Talmud says, those who are not forgotten

are never truly dead. We will always remember

uncle Elias gleefully hauling in over 100 mackeral

on that hot August day, sun glinting off his gold teeth.


Milton P. Ehrlich