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Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic No.45 ~ Stanley Barkan

Why I Love the Dutch

Written and Narrated by Stanley Barkan

New York


 We were traveling on a train

along he Rhine, hurrying to Amsterdam

to meet with the Dutch director of the Stichting.

Fearfully, my wife and I watched the lights across the river,

thinking of Hellman’s The Watch on the Rhine.

thinking of my father in Germany during WWI,

the War to End All Wars.  Of him on his motorbike,

the picture in my mind from the stories he told,

from the photo in his old album.  Of him in the Schwarzvald,

a German guiding him.  His hearing whistles on one side

and then the other, all around him.  Of him putting a bayonet

to the German’s throat.  Of him hiding in a farmhouse.

His spilling the milk he thought they poisoned out the window.

Of him putting a chair up against the door, so he could securely sleep.


At each stop, a conductor would wake us from our sleep

with his demanding: ‘PASSPORTS! What have you to declare!”

I would leap out of my sleep, thinking they had come to take me to the ovens.

At Mainz: “PASSPORT! What have you to declare!”

I leaped up, startled.

At Koblenz: “PASSPORT! What have you to declare!”

I jumped up.

At Köln: “PASSPORT! What have you to declare!”

I leaped out of my skin.


At last we crossed over the frontier into Maastricht.

The accent changed: “Passports.  Anything to declare?”

Relieved at the pleasant rhythm of the friendly voice,

I replied, à la Oscar Wilde: “Nothing but my genius.”

Whereupon the Dutch conductor, pinching his nose, said:

“Ohh . . . then, open the window.  Open the window.”


Ever since, I love the Dutch.


July 14, 1993

Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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