Babi Yar

Babi Yar

Ilona Martonfi


I have been to Babi Yar
a silent, sad earth
leafless chestnut trees, poplars, roses
inscribed in the sand of skulls
Symphony No 13 adagio
I couldn’t even ask:
Who is the bass soloist?
Baritone of speech song.
Fenced in with barbed wire
on the outskirts of Kiev
between Melnikova
and Dokhturova Street
beyond the Jewish cemetery.
A male chorus.
Cellist on this recording
cordoned off by SS soldiers
Nazi-occupied Ukraine

you couldn’t hear the shooting
September 29 1941
in a ravine at Babi Yar and there, I don’t know
a child. I touched her face.


One thought on “Babi Yar”

  1. Ilona throws us some astonishing curves with this fine poem. I'm still groping for which symphony she's hearing at some junctures (how many symphonic versions of Babiyar exist?), and the longest and penultimate line pitches me right into a massive ravine as I face the last line and total displacement/ temporal disjuncture of the personal touch that brings me back to the first line, "I have been to Babi Yar." What a remarkable and sobering poem. Marcia

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