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