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Poetry by Milton Ehrlich



After breakfast, how do you know what to do next?
Read the morning paper—then what?
Listen to expert advice:
Don’t sit still. Socialize and walk, or jog.
Do crosswords  puzzles, use your brain—
play scrabble, chess or Go.
Learn Italian, French or Arabic.
Attend book clubs, volunteer for ESL.
Travel or cruise around the world.
Remember to floss, and stare at the clouds passing by.
Read the books you’ve been meaning to read.
Get a job. Crossing guard, or barkeeper will do.
Write a memoir, songs or poems.
Get a dog or cat or breed salt water sea horses.
Learn to sing opera or dance Flamenco.
Go to a Temple, church or astrologist.
Do Yoga  or Pilates. Get a foot message.
Keep fucking,
make art and think about things
you’ve been meaning to think about.
Remember to breathe.
Prearrange your funeral. Forgive old enemies.
Meditate and meditate some more. 



My mail gets stamped Return to sender.
I migrate like a Monarch butterfly—
warm in winter and cool in summer.
Relieved to be rid of an old body
I no longer have to drag around,
I’m free of visiting doctors
who worry about my blood lipids
and every little pimple on my ass—
ordering colonoscopies and biopsies,
expecting me to live until Kingdom come.
With no teeth to brush, I’m delighted
to tell my sadistic dentists they can shove
their implants and root canals in the toilet.
I’ll visit all my loved ones and float
around in my toothless grin,
happier than I’ve ever been.



Drowning in a sea of antiseptics—
is the only word I can still spell.
I miss the comfort of warm thighs,
the alabaster pillows where I rested
my weary head. None of the young
nurses will cooperate as they did
for Hemingway, the wounded soldier. 

I overhear doctors and nurses
in an anesthesia-induced reverie
yapping about which of my body
orifices they plan to invade next
to make holes in my body and soul.

Stop the needles tearing at my flesh—
fumbling with IV pricks,
brutalizing my dick with catheters
and a feeding tube I don’t want. 

I stare at the sun outside my window
hoping it will trigger a sizzle of lightening
to clean up the toxic maze of my mind. 

Otherwise, I’ll soon start to sing,
Leave me alone, and let me go,
the moaning song I used to hear
visiting old friends in nursing homes. 

If that doesn’t work, the comfort of a clean bullet
zooming through my head is definitely my plan.


Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 87 year old psychologist and a Korean War veteran who began writing poems after the age of seventy. He has published many of his poems in periodicals such as the Toronto Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, Mobius, The Chiron Review, Descant, Arc Poetry Magazine, Naugatauk River Review, Taj Mahal Review, Poetica Magazine, Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times.

Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Milton on the Orson’s Publishing blog.