Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Uncle Morris

The older I get
the more I become like
my venerable uncle Morris
he who loved to sing
on the board walk in
Brighton Beach
to all the
crowds of
Jews and Pollacks
Greeks and Russians
while his audience
sunned themselves and
spread the latest gossip about
their families and neighbors

Uncle Morris was the neighborhood
Frank Sinatra with a Yiddish accent
He would often serenade the
divorced and widowed matrons of
Brighton Beach
Sea Gate and
Coney Island
in five languages
competing with the
chorus of seagulls
who were on the constant
lookout for a free meal
and scraps from
Nathan's famous

My uncle morris
was something
of a hotshot
a local casanova of sorts
although his alley cat days
were long behind him
still he could get
babushka covered heads
filled with romantic fantasies
that reminded them
of earlier times
when they were young women
in the full blush of their youth
back in places like
Brest Litovsk and
long before coming to
Brighton Beach
(America's Little Odessa
by the sea)

And the gathered fan club
would shout out requests
Sing Tumbalalaika!
Sing Hava Nagila!
Morris! Sing!
My Yiddishe Momma!
And he would oblige them
singing out his heart
until he was so hoarse
he could barely speak
let alone sing another note

And after a long afternoon of
performing for his devoted public
my uncle Morris would take me to
Brighton Beach Avenue
to eat hot freshly baked knishes at
Shatzkin's World Famous Knishes
and to shop for delicacies from the
dozen or so delicatessans that
dotted the shopping district.
I loved the smell of the pickles and
the hot pastrami
I loved the display of every variety of
salami known to mankind
that hung above the counters and
in the display windows;
I loved the feel of the fresh sawdust
under my feet and
the cornucopia of
dried fruits and candies and sweets that
filled the counters to overflowing

Every kid in America
deserves to have
his very own
Uncle Morris

Philadelphia, Pa. 2013

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