The Old Airport: Halle #77
by Ilona Martonfi

Boggy summer gardens choke with wildflowers. Indigo. Earth shades. Landscape flush with crimson poppies.

Abandoned concrete airport. 1950. Father moves us to the refugee town, Neutraubling. He drives up to Halle 77: turns off the engine. I hop off the Opel truck. The red-brick house is attached to a fifty-foot hangar.

Walls are pockmarked with shrapnel. The front door is missing. The hallway, roofless. Second-floor windows, blasted. Catkin willows grow in bomb craters. Glass chards. Rubble. Dandelions. Vater installs doors. Builds a pigpen. Beno, the black and white dog, sleeps with a chain.

Through the printed blue cotton curtain: the Lindenbaum. Red currant shrubs. Round yellowish-green gooseberry. Here in this house of my childhood, in rooms I live in and know. I learn the art of braiding. Grandmother Kisanyuka's kalács, braided cake with sugar and raisins. Puliszka, cornmeal porridge. Melting the lard.

The common room is equipped with an iron stove. Oak table. A few chairs. And two single beds. Grandmother and two sisters sleep in here. Saturday bath in an old tin tub. Mother scrubs my back. Braids my Zoepfe with red polka dot ribbons. Pigtailed eight-year-old.

A key turning in a lock: walls, brown ochre. Sky-blue tiles. I don't light a candle, a lamp. Up one flight of cement stairs leading to the Rumpelkammer. The junk room is next to my parents' bedroom. Cold. Dark. Windowless. The smelly night-bucket is in there.

Wood-frame beds with straw-filled mattresses. My chore is to fill the woodbox with kindling and coal. Light the fire in the Ofen. Rock my brother to sleep in his cradle. The beds are bug-ridden with Wanzen. I kill the bedbugs with my shoe. Blood on the stone floor.

After school, I eat my supper alone. Vegetable soup with homemade dumplings. Black bread slathered with unsalted butter. And on the table are a steel-nibbed quill, a bottle of blue ink and a blotter. I do my homework: writing. Arithmetic. Composition. Careful, not to make a Klecks, a splotch.

Always, I was lovesick with books.

Fasching, carnival, in Bavaria is in February. Children dress up: princess, chimney sweep, bride and groom. Clowns march through the narrow streets. I disguise as a witch. Dab my face with soot from the wood stove.

Ilona Martonfi is a poet, creative-writing teacher, editor, and founder, producer, and host of both The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Poetry and Prose Readings. Ilona's poems have appeared in Vallum, Carve, Arcade, Soliloquies, Helios, Montreal Serai, Fire with Water, and Sun Through the Blinds: Haiku Today. She was a finalist in the 2007 Quebec Writing Competition and was subsequently published in In Other Words: New English Writing from Quebec (Véhicule Press, 2008). Ilona's forthcoming book of poems, called Blue Poppy, will be published by Coracle Press.