My Aunts and Uncles in Heaven

Aunt Mildred’s pinched

an angel’s cheeks again,

leaving thumbprints

the size of walnuts

Zei gesunt, she tells him,

how much you’ve grown.

She and Uncle Louie

harangue each other

at such high volume

that God Himself

stuffs his ears

with wads of cloud


Aunt Helen,

always highly critical of

everyone’s housekeeping,

runs her fingers over

the top of the Holy Ark,

and finding a little shmutz,

commences a campaign

to scour Heaven

top to bottom

until it sparkles

like her house in Queens.

Uncle Irving,

oblivious to his wife’s

celestial cleanliness,

is curled up drunk

inside the carpet

he brought to lay

on the Almighty’s throne



Aunt Esther’s white cat,

the aptly named Princess,

sporting a diamond collar

eats the choicest morsels of manna

from bone white china.

Uncle Sy is seated at the organ,

his giant belly propped up on the keys

as he belts out another Yiddish tune.

A former wrestler with a crushing grip,

the saints refuse to shake his hand.


Aunt Harriet is there as well,

sweet peacekeeper

for her family’s incessant arguments

about the order of the presidents

or the names of the Supremes.

Her husband, Morris, is a man

who knows more than

all Doctors, lawyers PhDs combined

but simply cannot keep a job.

He spends his day

expounding to the recently deceased

on the fifty cures for cancer

that the doctors never tell you.


The raven-haired Aunt Gertrude,

married at a late age to

fastidious Uncle Michael,

(who sells antiques

and is almost one himelf)

Is the favorite of the children here.

Dipping into Michael’s Chinese vases,

they scoop up all the pennies

their little hands can hold.


God’s favorite is, of course,

my diminutive Aunt Becky,

an early champion of civil rights,

beloved by every color and creed

in downtown Newark.

Her cigar- chomping husband Charlie,

mowed down by a drunk driver

near his newsstand,

greets the dearly departed

with a mischievous wink,

and hands them a copy of

“Nudists at Play.”

“If  you think this is heaven,” he says,

“take a gander at that.”


(Originally published in Jewish Literary Journal)




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