Archive of Issues
Archive of Narrations
Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic No.43 ~ Stan Barkan

Save Your Peach Pits

Written and Narrated by Stanley H. Barkan

New York


For the war effort, we were asked

to save newspapers; I collected them

from walk-ups and apartment houses

of Williams & Hindsdale & Alabama

& Georgia & Snediker &  Wyona &

Van Siclen & Miller & Bradford &

Blake & Sutter Avenues–all over

East New York, Brooklyn.

The smell of steam under the newsprint

warmed my hands under my torn gloves.

We were asked to save aluminum foil;

I peeled off the “silver” from the inside wrappings

of the cigarette packs my mother smoked two a day.

And the butcher was asked to save the fat cut away

from the meat not to be weighed falsely with the edible parts;

they were needed for glycerine (“nitro,” I thought).

This was during World War II, a time when I, and my street gang,

saved everything:  coins & stamps, soda bottle caps, milk bottle wire, 

comic books,“tickets”—baseball, football, cowboy & Indian cards—

everything, as if quantity could make up for the lack of quality

in our neighborhood of poor,  struggling immigrant lives.

Looking for history, biography, in the smalltown newspaper–

The Madison Eagle,  of my father’s small World War I America,

I found notices urging people to save their eggs, gas & oil,

their old clothes and scrap metal, bottles, tires—of all things!—

and peach pits (something to do with gas masks).

“Save Your Peach Pits!” it read.  And I thought

about the many things I tried to save as a boy

and all that remains, some shreds of memories

set down in a journal or a poem like this one.

Somehow, saving things, I realized, was a spell against death.

Save your peach pits!  Save the world!


Uncle Sam

Written and Narrated by Stanley H. Barkan

New York

 Uncle Sam was struck by lightning, the third rail on the IRT. where he worked for 30 years. He used his free pass to travel all the trains, all the buses, all the NYC public transport, part of his benefits for working on the railroad, the els and the subways.  For a year he lay in liquid solutions, the air would sear his skin, restoring oh so slowly.  He used to play baseball, football, and he ran and jumped and swam, when he and his younger brother, Joe, and his older brother, Jake, were boys—sportsboys—in Madison, New Jersey. Stationed in the U.S. Army, in the Philippines, he wrestled, became the champ.  Later, when he was in Siberia, he met a Russian woman. She was beautiful, but she was too hard to live with. (They had a son.  A doctor.  He lived in Manila. Had children.  Sam’s grandchildren.) After too much pain, Sam left with Joe; traveled America. Two tramps in mud time.  They camped out, the way they learned as doughboys over there, in “The War to End All Wars.”  They were stubborn, hard; things were either right or wrong. They wouldn’t accept a roof over their heads unless they earned it, working in a farm field or canning peas or packing meat in the City of the Big Shoulders.  There they met the Jurgis family (or the model for it), they said, the one Upton Sinclair wrote about in The Jungle.  When invited by an old army pal who lived in a rural part of the South, they went to visit,  and the whole town turned out to greet them.   A big feast and all kinds of celebrations were planned.   At the dinner table,  the father of their pal said  the opening prayer,   concluding:

 “. . .  And God save us from the goddamn Jews!”  Their friend winced, looked at them, trying to excuse his father.  But Sam and Joe were hard.  They left without a word.  As boys in Russia, Sam and Joe and Jake were running from a cutthroat Cossack.  Jake, the eldest, hit him with a rock and they got away, escaped from the Pale of Settlement, actually walked to France and then sailed to America. Settled in Madison, New Jersey.  Max, their father, opened a dry goods store.  Later, Jake returned to Europe to fight and die for the French in Verdun.  After a year-long recovery, Sam looked OK, except for the scar down the middle of his granite face.  He used to visit; took me to play golf; he was still a sportsman.  We went to see him in Florida.  His third wife, Madeleine, had to put him in a home; couldn’t take care of him anymore.  Scotty and Mia, my kids—little as they were—took turns wheeling him about the hallways and the recreation area.  He didn’t know me at first.  Then said, “So you’re Joe’s boy . . .  ” and, pointing his thumb down, “Yeah, Joe’s in the ground.”  His face was rough, unshaven, but still had that manly smell  I used to savor  of his brother, my father.  He kept saying,  “Oh boy, what a good day!  What a good day!”  That was the last we saw of him.  Madeleine sent me his 1930’s Timex (it was still working), thought I’d like to have it.  Later, in Madison, we saw his name and my father’s and Uncle Jake’s on the war memorial—for those who fought “to make the world safe for Democracy”—just in front of what was the dry goods store where Grandfather Max struggled to wrest a living for his boys, remarried to have a mother for them. (Their real mother died before they left Russia.)  But she was mean.  Used to hit them with hot irons.  Dying, Max asked the boys what they would like him to do with the store and the house they lived in behind it.  They told him not to worry.  It was OK.  But, later, they had to leave—everything.  And now they’re all gone, but not forgotten.  They live on in us, in our children, in memory, in this—Max and Jake and Joe—and Samuel Barkan, my uncle, who worked on the railroad.  The IRT.  He was burned on the third rail and came back from the dead.





Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
History of Syndic
Write Letter / Contact Publisher
© all photos/text

Archive of Issues

Archive of Narrations