My America

I am Kaminski from Elyria, Ohio,
the Kaminski who repaired furnaces for years
before The Kaminski Brothers
folded. I favor my grandpa Kaminski
who taught my father fishing,
and I live with my wife
down the street from the church
where I teach a catechism class for teens.
After the army, which lost me a toe,
we paid off the grey frame two-story
that we got on the cheap.
"Kaminski Acres" we used to call it.
The wife and I would buy
a round of Stroh's on Friday nights
for the guys from US Steel.
We made do. Pretty soon
Kaminski Paving came along
thanks to Michael, our eldest.
He loves to kid me at Christmas dinner

and says "Dad, with you
it's always Kaminski this and
Kaminski that." Which reminds me
of the time I saw the Jewish comic,
Danny Kaye, on tour in Cleveland.
He was a guy like me
who did his best for kids,
UNICEF, if I remember right,
and though he was old by then
he still cracked me up with that song
about the names of Russian composers.
So I waited by the stage door
at Severance Hall
and shook his hand. He actually smiled
a wide smile and I found myself
saying "I'm John Kaminski; you were great."
He looked at me through those pure
blue eyes of his. Then he said
"Glad you liked it. I'm Kaminsky, too."

—Richard Merelman, Madison, WI