The Old Airport


Look through grandmother’s kitchen window:

a concrete airstrip, wheat fields,

red poppies, cornflowers.

Forsythia, osier willows in bomb craters.


We moved to Halle 7, in 1950,

two-story, red-brick house attached to a shed.

Windows blasted, front door, missing. Roofless hallway.

Linden tree, gooseberry, red currant shrub.


Bavarian Forest foothills ridge,


after the war, refugees settled in the ruins

of the military airfield, Neutraubling.


Pigtailed, Hungarian girl of eight.

My friend Ingrid, her family, Silesian farmers.

A two-room school. Father Böhm’s chapel.

Nuns in black habits and veils.

Saturday classes, sewing and knitting.


If the purple crabapple could speak

what would it say? Electrified barbed wire.

Apartment building whose backyard served

as a sub-camp for slave labourers and war prisoners.

These silent stalks of grass, April 1945:

inmates were herded together and marched to Dachau.


The small pond children played in,

was used as a reservoir for the fire watch.


Streets, littered with rubble.

Striped marsh frogs. Blue iris.

Yellow poplars.

Keep walking until you reach a round well.

A graveyard where prisoners were once buried.

Their remains were dug up and moved

to a mass grave at Flossenbürg.


Through grandmother’s kitchen window:

white plum tree blossoms.

Ilona Martonfi is a Montreal poet.