Four Poems by Milton P. Ehrlich

soft cartel april 2018


His head is on fire in a terrible fright.
Smoke can be seen wafting out of his ears.
The stink of desiccated arms, legs, breasts
and bellies is everywhere.

The pith of his soul trembles—
what kind of chicanery
have the politicos done to us?

He’s surrounded by deafening silence,
smothered dreams, and a tarnished mirror
revealing the many faces of death.

His world is empty and unused
as a saloon spittoon, in a landscape
bare as a banker’s bald head.

A wind blows hundred dollar bills
through the leaves of barren trees.
Gold Kruggerands bounce along
deserted sidewalks and streets.

There’s no live fish left in the sea,
no corn standing in desolate fields,
and not a drop of water to drink.

He tries an Ojibway’s haunting rain dance,
grunting— whoha, heeho, hahhah
to the beat of stone on stone.

He’s so lonely, he forgets how to cry—
all he can do is bang his head against
what’s left of a Bank of America safe.

He used to think he was the loneliest man on earth.
Now he knows it to be true.

All he wants to do is search for the love of a woman—
even a friend will do. He longs for the perfumed air
of the past, and promises to love those who don’t love back.


Hearing the bark of my sergeant’s orders
was music to my rifleman’s ears
after trudging through rocky brambles
in mosquito-ridden underbrush.

I took a deep drag from the tips of my toes.

Cigarettes came with our K-rations,
helping me to become a nicotine drug addict—
a smoke with every cup of coffee, shot of scotch,
or after every sexual encounter.

Cigarettes and booze: Always available at the PX
at deeply discounted prices.

It wasn’t until a few years later—
working at N.Y. U. on a first large-scale study
on the correlation between smoking and cancer
that I followed the lead of the chain-smoking
director of the project, who quit smoking cold-turkey
the day the malarkey about smoking was revealed.


All that’s left— a chiaroscuro photo
of you and me on our farm
inhaling the scent of new-mown hay.

Bouquets of delphinium wilt,
but my moustache keeps twitching
for a taste of your melted brie.
Your dance shoes keep click-clacking
through drifts of confetti on the floor.

After our Aramaic wedding in Bnei Brak
where I paid seven shekels for you.
We rode camels in the windblown sands
of the Sinai before the Six-Day War.

We searched for edible mushrooms.
Once we collected crustaceans
and fossils at the Catskill Creek
and saved them in a pewter pot

We listened to Alan Watts every night
seated back to back like meditating monks.

Because you were a connoisseur
of living in the moment,
our bedroom walls vibrated
as we bonded harmoniously.

Please don’t leave this world before me—
it will turn my kishkes inside out
and decapitate my soul.
If you are gone I will fall apart
agonizing over the stillness in our house.


When I look in the mirror,
I don’t recognize the face I see.
I ‘m sure I haven’t changed a bit
since I was seventeen—
still the dreamer I remember so well,
who loves the ladies as much as ever.

I drive a car with the finesse
of an Indy 500 race car driver.

But, when I was seventeen,
I had a romantic fling
that might evade me now.

She was a lusty classmate
who craved intimate bouts
as often as we could have them.
The supply line for Big Gun Bertha
flowed effortlessly.

Now we have to wait for regeneration.
In days gone by, when I entered her,
she held me tight and wouldn’t let go.
When I drove her hither and yon,
she kept her hand on my crotch,
hanging on to my one-eyed friend
as if it was a stick-shift car,
even though it was fully automatic.

Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 86-year old psychologist. A Korean War veteran, he has published numerous poems in periodicals such as “Descant,” “Taj Mahal Review,” “Wisconsin Review,” “Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow,” “Toronto Quarterly Review,” “Antigonish Review,” “Christian Science Monitor,” “Huffington Post,” and the “New York Times.”