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The Unemployment Of My Soul & How Lola Became A Vegetarian

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I can march on a picket line
in front of God’s Home Office
or sing: brother can you spare a dime—
trudge up and down the avenue
looking for work— anything will do,
a shoeshine box, or dishwashing hands
ready and able to perform God’s work.

After taking care of everybody else
the good doves in my soul fly away.
Now vultures abound rattling windows—
I won’t let them in or give them a crumb.
Maybe it’s time to retire—play golf in Miami,
or sail around the world on the Queen Mary.
My Shrink advises I’m suffering from burnout,
and it’s time to stop working and have some fun.
But my soul has become a stubborn old coot
who can’t stop shaving and showing up for work,
like a dancer who has duende and can’t stop dancing
long after drums and castanets can no longer be heard.


She grew up under the shadow
of El Pollo Loco in Petaluma, CA—
a life that revolved around chickens.
As a toddler she used to help Mother
feed the flock—she clucked like a chicken,
and chased after them as if they were friends.
Lola loved these fat birds who couldn’t fly.
The ghost of a chicken, marinated in lime,
warns the whole flock to run for their lives!
But like Jews in Europe in the 1930’s,
most of them stayed behind— rumors
they heard were not to be believed.
Father hypnotized a capon rooster
and an egg-laying hen, a technique
he learned on his father’s farm
in Jalisco. Lola believed Father
had magical powers and wouldn’t
hurt her friends.
When she got a little older, she watched
Mother wring their necks and witnessed
how they ran around without their heads
leaving a hemorrhaging rain of blood
before collapsing in heaps—and afterwards,
their feathers plucked—one by one.
When Lola asked if that was the same chicken
we ate in our restaurant, Mother nodded
affirmatively, turning Lola into a lifelong
vegetarian overnight.

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Milton P. Ehrlich, PhD. is an 85-year-old psychologist and Korean War veteran. He has published numerous poems in periodicals such as Descant, The Wisconsin Review, Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow, Toronto Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and The New York Times.

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