RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Nov 8

Red Wheelbarrow Poets
Poem of the Week 11/08/2016

Milton Ehrlich

If Only My Name Had Been Nicholas

I wouldn’t have been such a scared kid.
If my name had been something — anything,
just not Milton, an alien name,
a yellow star of David.

How could it not catch the eye of those toothless oafs
who hoisted me up in the air in 1936?
My 6-year-old legs fluttered in the air,
wordless — when they demanded
to know: “Are you a Jew?”

My bruised mouth stuttered to utter: “I’m a Greek,”
hoping against hope
I could pass for Christian,
and maybe Greek.

They wore swastika armbands,
forced me to salute Hitler
with a shout of Sieg Heil!

Father wanted to call me Nicholas,
but Mother preferred Mordecai,
after her beloved grandfather.

I could have been a tough kid
with a name like Nick,
maybe even, Nick the Prick.

And might have become a pal
of Tony, Frankie and Luigi,
instead of hanging out
with Hebrew School classmates,
Marvin, Norman and Howard.

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