Pops was a gentleman with polished shoes,
a lit cigar, a glass of booze, and an outstretched hand.
With his pants rolled up, and the shirt on his back,
he squirmed into steerage from Napoli to the promised land.
A master of chitchat with an uncanny knack for sizing people
up, he found a job in sales. With a ready joke for every occasion,
his smiling face radiated warmth and good will, charming housewives
like a Rudolph Valentino.

It was the worst of times with bread lines everywhere,
but he trudged down the road plotting the perfect “pitch.”
(Not true, he reported, all those jokes about the farmer’s daughter.)
It was an era when Father Coughlin spewed forth anti-Semitic rants.
Pops was repelled when he ran into neighborhoods with signs that said
“No Dogs or Jews.” His boss, Mr. Goldstein, a kindly soul, paid him
well enough to provide Osso Buco and Braciole on Sundays.

Spiritually inclined, he never passed a church without going in to light
a candle and say an unhurried prayer. But his greatest faith was reserved
for doctors, (with more faith in doctors than doctors themselves),
undergoing multiple surgeries that kept him alive and well.

A widower at a ripe old age, he made the rounds of nursing homes,
plinking on a mandolin, singing tin pan alley songs.

As the doors of his wide-open heart began to close down, he hoped
to rattle the pearly gates, and make one last pitch to the angels.
At the wake, his son surreptitiously slipped a stogie and a small bottle
of vodka into the coffin to keep him smiling on the journey ahead.

Milton P. Ehrlich