A.N.B. [1990]


Yeshiva boy from Hackney,
Seventh child and fatherless,
Took odd jobs to make ends meet,
Sold high boots to ballet dancers,
Without conviction.

Then came World War II,
Volunteered for the navy,
Got the army, London Scottish,
Thus obliged to wear a kilt,
Against prediction.

Sergeant-major, Desert Rat,
Drove a tank and shot point blank,
Rescued men from burning huts,
Awarded military medal,
Better than fiction.

Italy in forty-four
And forty-five, active service,
Meeting Pope Pius XII
Picking up fluent Italian
And a shrapnel affliction.

Demobbed at last, a waiting wife,
A mother dead, he buries gongs
Of distinguished service by her grave,
To such mementos of glory,
He lacks addiction.

Post-war, he shuns jingoism,
He who waved his Union flag
At primary school on Empire Day
And anglicized his first name
For acceptability.

Revered in North London,
Elder of the synagogue,
Personal tragedy ravaging life,
Keeping a stiff upper lip,
That English ability.

Full of days, one man Sanhedrin,
Still at hand for those in need,
Lifeline for the devastated,
Fourscore years are in his sights,
Shows equanimity.

Small in stature, slight of build,
Ashen faced on Yom Kippur,
Tallit at the Neilah service
Covering his hairless head
In touch with divinity.

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