Tag Archives: Ilona Martonfi

Oświęcim

Oświęcim

Ilona Martonfi

Sown from the teeth of a birch tree
lashed together she

lives in a graveyard
paints a poem after Auschwitz

using Zyklon B gas
medical experiments

with a bundle under her arms
never took that photograph

the ghost plaint: here
remember the crematoria

living inside barbed wire
armed SS guards.

“Where are we going?”

Those feared as the other.
Those who rode in cattle cars.

Those whose voices silenced
fifty kilometres west of Kraków

Rajiya in the work camp.
Her only possession

a red knitted cardigan,
made by her Bubbe.


photo credit: Dr. Fred Leitner, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, 2012

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.

Giuseppa’s wedding

Giuseppa’s wedding

Ilona Martonfi

It is said these are ancestors who come
during nissuin
– ceremony under a huppa
veiling of the bride

Hebrew blessing
recited for Giuseppa Mulè

here in this manor,
Baglio di Baarìa, Sicilia
gate of the winds –
slopes of Mount Catalfamo.

A mother-in-law’s secret family history
passed down over 500 years
the groom will present a gold ring

break a glass under his foot
left together alone in this chamber

skeletons around a bride
on a raised chair
the hóra circle folk dance

i morti –the dead
act out scenes from their lives:
weavers, potters, and dyers
blacksmiths and silver smiths

paint carob wood boxes,
boxes with two hinged gates:
duality of Crypto-Jewish life
on the inside a skeletal family
light a menorah on Friday night.

Sit shiva on a low stool
say the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer

Giuseppa’s eldest daughter
died of fever aged one.

Girl in “hygge” refugee hut

Crackling_Fire

Girl in “hygge” refugee hut

Ilona Martonfi

In the mountains on the
other side of a fjord
winter solstice, 60 degrees north,
where the sun sets before four
one room timber cabin, attic loft
Magyar refugee family from Budapest

what’s hygge about grandmother’s
homemade lingonberry compote?

hygge at Yuletime
it sounds like “hYOOguh
–it’s even harder to translate
now that we have a name for it
–warmth, togetherness, family
and in the Nordic darkness unaware
five children, four girls and one boy
we’re hygge’ing right now
around an oak table for a meal:
spiced meatballs. Potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
For all of you to cuddle around the woodstove
on a December evening.
Ah, så koselig –so cozy.

Laced ankle boots, wool mittens
tobogganing on a snowy hill

tucked under sheepskin,
sipping tin cup of hot cocoa,
hygge by curling up on a bench
with a fairy tale book
mother brought from the old country,

teddy bear, a rocking horse
the glow of a log fire

spruce bright with white candles.