Syndic No. 21 Cover / Theme: Social Justice ∼ Social Injustice
Syndic Literary Journal

Social Justice ~ 4 Poems by Stanley Barkan

Illustration by Bill Tammeus

 

4 Poems by Stanley Barkan

 

The Cats and Dogs of Tela Aviv

[1984]

No dog will attack a cat in Tel Aviv.
At least not in some parts of town.
The cats go straight for the nose
—and that’s it.
So, in some parts of town,
if not in unison, at least
in an armored peace,
some cats and dogs
learn to live together
—if not by choice,
then by necessity.

Used To Be An American

 [for Andres Gottlieb]

I used to be an American.
America of FDR and Ebbets Field
when Roosevelt was a hero
and the Dodgers were in Brooklyn,
when the custard stand opened
on the corner and the hot dogs
at Nathan’s were a foot long.
I used to be an American
when my pals and I would play
stickball by the Great Gas Storage Tank
on Georgia Avenue in old East New York,
when we would take the long train ride
to Brighton and Coney Island and eat
cotton candy and see side shows
and dare the Steeplechase roller coaster.
I used to be an American
picking blueberries by the waters
of Swan Lake in the Catskills,
the Jewish Alps, where I would take
long walks on sunlit roads, catch
butterflies and beetles and collect
them, like so many stamps and coins.
I used to be an American
buying penny candy in the Candy Store,
drinking malted milks and reading
Superman and Captain Marvel
The Blue Beetle and The Green Hornet.
I used to be an American
listening to Amos ‘n’ Andy, The Shadow,
Tom Mix, and Roosevelt’s fireside chats,
going to the movies for double features
and coming attractions and Looney Tunes
& Merry Melodies (“Moodles,” I mispronounced).
Before, before the window protectors went up,
Before the streets turned too dark even at noon,
Before ships were turned back from the lamp no longer lit,
Before it was no longer safe to walk anywhere in Brooklyn,
Before rail lines to Auschwitz were not bombed,
Before I discovered that being a Jew mattered.
I used to be an American.

[July 15, 1994]

 

THE ART OF WAR AND PEACE
(30-31 October 2012)

I. The Art of War
(for Roxy)

Dusk. Darkness descends
in the hurricane-caused
lightless house.In the oversized chair
in the corner of
the living room,
my barely three-foot,
three-year-old granddaughter
is reading Sun Tzu’s
The Art of War.

Well, she’s curled
up with the book
riffling the pages,
appears to be
reading it.

Given that she’s
emerged whole, unblemished
from a wrestling match
with her bigger, older
eight-year-old sister,
it seems she has a plan:
How to Get Even—
the first book she’ll
write when she’s older.
—Just you wait!

II. War and Peace
(for Tasha)

Now my eight-year-old,
in response to
her younger sister’s
reading Sun Tzu’s
The Art of War,
takes out her copy of
Tolstoy’s War and Peace,
which she’s been reading
since the age of five,
just a dozen or so pages
each year.

It’s a thousand pages
in the paperback edition
and even longer in hard cover.
But she’s game,
though she’s having
a hard time
with some of the names.

One day when she’s
able to finish all of it,
and her sister finishes
The Art of War,
they just may find
how to make peace
out of the childish
war between them.

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