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Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic Literary Journal

July 14, 2022

Syndic Poetry


The Art of the Spoken Word


” Theme ~ Uvalde is Family to Me ”



Uvalde is Family to Me

Maite’s Green High Top Converse Sneakers:

Uvalde Is Family to Me 

Written and Narrated by Bill Berkowitz  

She could only be identified by her green high top Converse sneakers.

10-year-old Maite Rodriguez will never again wear those green high tops.  

You can get killed in a Texas classroom and the Governor won’t give a damn. 

Maite was first identified by her sneakers.  

The AR-15 style rifle so ravaged her, and many of the other 18 young kids, that DNA was needed to identify them. 

You can get killed in a Texas classroom and the Governor doesn’t give a damn.

Maite drew a heart with a marker on the right toe of her green Converse sneakers. 

“These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting,” Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey said during a news conference at the White House, while his wife, Camila, held up a pair of green Converse. 

You can get killed in a Texas classroom by an AR-15 style rifle and the Governor doesn’t give a damn.

You can get killed in a Texas classroom by an AR-15 style rifle and the Governor doesn’t give a damn.  

As a young boy, my high top Converse sneakers meant everything to me; wearing them to school, on the asphalt in the playground after school, on the street playing kick the can, and even in my Bronx apartment.  

On May 24, Maite wore her green high top sneakers to school.

Green was her favorite color and she wanted to help save the planet by becoming a marine biologist.

Maite’s green Converse can not dance by themselves, cannot play by themselves, cannot draw on themselves. Without Maite, they are empty… like our hearts.

Now that dream is destroyed by another senseless massacre and the governor doesn’t give a damn.

An AR-15 style rifle slaughtered nineteen children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

For these children and teachers – and they are our children and our teachers — there will be no future.

You can get killed in a Texas classroom by an AR-15 style rifle and the Governor doesn’t give a damn. 

Uvalde is Family to Me

Written and Narrated by Kristine Doll

The tape on the floor

marks where to stand, out of view

of monsters with guns.

Experts say we have to choose

to run, to hide, or to fight.

How do we decide?

They look to me for guidance.

What if I am wrong?

They ask if I would step out,

stand in front of a shooter.

My Dad, a Marine,

was trained for war and combat.

I am a teacher,

trained to light up a classroom.

The two of us equally

engaged in service.

The two of us committed

to our families,

communities, our country;

immigrants and native-born.

Americans, all.

How long will we tape the floors?

We are Uvalde.

We suffer with Uvalde.

Uvalde is family.


Uvalde is Family to Me ~ A Road Trip

Written and Narrated by Nitin Jagdish


I’ve never been to Newtown, Connecticut, but back in 1986 I celebrated Thanksgiving in Newtown, Massachusetts.  My cousin and his family lived there, and we drove from New Jersey, Princeton Junction to be exact, to see them.  I made my cousin’s wife play a Weather Report album in her collection so I could feel sophisticated (I was 15).  Nobody noticed the music, not even me.  The Thanksgiving feast consisted of several Indian dishes, including some of the most delicious vegetable biriyani I’ve ever tasted. There was no turkey or stuffing.   

At the risk of sounding like a dues-paying member of the Blame America First clique, I never tasted traditional turkey until my first year of law school at the University of Wisconsin.  A classmate was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for first years who were stuck in Madison that weekend.  Everyone resented me when I made them watch Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre so I could feel sophisticated (I was 22).  The universe was set right, though, when the Cowboys lost to the Dolphins on the strength of a last-minute Leon Lett blunder.       

Our host was one of the founding fathers of UW’s Law Students for the Second Amendment.  He was atypical.  He loudly defended Norman Lear’s social agenda.  He never exposed his gun collection to guests.  He never claimed if the government banned guns, only criminals would have them.  However, he loved to say an armed society was a polite society, and people needed be as well-armed as their government to be truly free.   

Newtown is family to me.  

I’ve never been to Binghamton, but I’ve been let down by Paul Simon in Ithaca.  We rescued a copy of Graceland from one of Ithaca’s second-hand shops and repeatedly played it as we drove around town.  Listening to it in 2010, it sounded like nothing more than a collection of pleasant-sounding ditties.  This was Simon’s artistic peak?  This was a bold and unprecedented mix of musical styles?  This was the record people who opposed apartheid needed to have in their collection?   

Reading about Graceland was more rewarding than listening to it.  After we returned to Baltimore, I gifted my brother-in-law the CD.  

Binghamton is family to me.  

I’ve never been to Buffalo, but I’ve miniature golfed in Niagara Falls.  Family friends from Singapore were visiting America for the first time, and so we drove from New Jersey, Old Bridge to be exact, to see the falls.  The seven of us piled into a boat of a Buick to get there, guzzling cans of the soon-to-be-infamous New Coke along the way. Other than making me wet, the falls left no impression. 

But O, the miniature golf course…. a sublime creation that stuffed me with awe and wonder.  The Singaporeans never played miniature golf before, miniature golf not being particularly popular in Singapore.  The son was a goddamned prodigy, banking shots of off windmills like he was Don Quixote’s bastard son.  Once or twice on the sly I kicked my ball into the hole, thus ensuring I would lose with dignity.    

Buffalo is family to me.  

I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but I sulked in Penn Falls.  I could toss a word salad explaining how our Thanksgiving road trip to Wheeling encapsulated something essential about the American experience, but one must never revere their youth too deeply.   

All you need to know is I was looking forward to watching Earl Campbell run over the Doomsday Defense on Thanksgiving, but the grown-ups decided the day would be better spent making the hour or so yatra to the Sri Venkateswara Temple.  After genuflecting before enough deities to attain rote piety, I passed the time running around the temple’s perimeter in the rain.  I pretended to be the Tyler Rose, while mourning the missed opportunity to see him on TV.  

Pittsburgh is family to me.  

I’ve never been to Henderson, but the missus and I visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisville. I will say no more out of respect for our privacy.  

Henderson is family to me.  

I’ve never been to Craighead County, but I reviewed Federal disability claims filed by children who lived in the Jonesboro area.  Reviewing them depressed me.  We approved very few of those claims, but I would never trade any of my medical problems, past or present, for theirs.  Without exception, those kids were broken.  

Reviewing these claims taught me our social programs are tailored to minimize fraud rather than maximize help.  It also introduced me to the tactic of singing the siren song of “Potential” to shipwreck one’s compassion (You’ve probably endured the song at some point. “Giving those kids money ruins them. My niece’s best friend has no arms and no legs.  She communicates by squawking and bobbing her head.  She is an honors student at Harvard.  See what happens when we stop worrying about disability and start focusing on ability?”) Until these practices change, don’t pretend we live in a humane society. 

Craighead County is family to me.   

I’ve never been to Fort Hood, but in the summer of 1993 I toured the University of Texas, Austin.  My brother was starting undergrad there that fall, so the Jagdish clan drove up and over from Houston to absorb its fabled weirdness.  

Our tour guide wanted everyone in our group to know exactly why nothing in the world beat being a Longhorn.  With a gusto usually seen only when people recount their early sexual experiences, he detailed the local controversy about the true height of the UT clock tower.  Having done my undergrad at everyone’s favorite safety school, NYU, it was strange and moving meeting a student who was happy to attend the school he was attending.  Out of respect for his unironic school spirit, I didn’t remind him that regardless of its height, the clock tower was tall enough not to be forgotten by history. 

Fort Hood is family to me.  

I’ve never been to El Paso, but I was born in Lubbock.  Buddy Holly and me.  In deference to Texas law and a recent Supreme Court ruling, I now say I lived there for the first 14 months, rather than the first 5 months, of my life.  

My parents settled in Lubbock after immigrating from India.  They are considered somewhat fair-skinned by Indian standards, but are safely brown by American ones.  My birth certificate lists them as white, no doubt reassuring those who subscribe to the Great Replacement Conspiracy.   

El Paso is family to me.  

I’ve never been to Uvalde, but I’ve remembered the Alamo.  My parents wanted to show me the San Antonio River Walk, so we drove down and over from Houston.  While there we saw a movie on the Alamo.  Its two most distinct qualities were that it was in IMAX and featured Patrick Swayze’s brother.   

At the risk of sounding like a critical race theory zombie, I’m not big on Manifest Destiny.  Even so, I salute the Texians and Tejanos who fought General Santa Anna’s forces.  Assuming the movie, which seemed like a gimmick to drum up souvenir business, was historically accurate, the Alamo’s defenders acted heroically.  They knew they were outnumbered, they knew help was not coming, and they knew they wouldn’t survive.  They chose to stay and fight anyway.  They didn’t dodge their responsibility.  

Uvalde is family to me.  

There are so many other places I’ve never seen, such as Blacksburg, Charleston, Chattanooga, Parkland, Dayton, Aurora, Columbine, Tucson, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, and San Jose.  They run from sea to shining sea.  

They too are family to me.   






Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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