There are no white cliffs in Dover, New Jersey,
a grungy, blue-collar town where Mrs. Perry
survived on pretzels and beer at every meal.

While chomping on Hanover Sourdough Pretzels
she drank quart size bottles of Ballantine beer.

She was a widow, whose husband survived the Battles of Verdun
and the Somme, only to be crushed by his Phaeton sedan
while replacing a tail pipe.

Skinny as a purging teen, chain-smoking cartons of Camels,
her Rosaries were never far from her hand.

During the war, she rented my uncle a furnished room.
He worked at Picatinny, loading heavy munitions
shipped to the fighting men at the front.

A survivor of pogroms in Bucharest, strong as a Clydesdale horse,
he looked like the Macedonians who fought along the Danube.
Solitary, sphinx-like, he never said a word about the sadness of his past.

For decades, my uncle and the widow sustained a formal relationship,
never once addressing each other by first names.
But they sat on the porch every Sunday, never missing a parade.

He prepared garlicky schnitzel, Mazola-soaked shepherd’s salad,
verenikas slathered in chicken fat, and mamaligas
drenched with kashkiaval and brindza.

She refused to ever taste his savory meals.

Two lonesome folks, locked in Love’s austere and lonely offices,
lived side by side under the same roof, never touching each other.

After he exhaled his last breath, her grief was inconsolable.

All I found in the bureau of his furnished room
was a tallis, tefillin, mezuzah, a Masonic gold ring,
and, buried under a stack of neatly-ironed underwear,
a pack of pornographic playing cards.