Five Picture Postcards

by S Stephanie

Five Picture Postcards
for W.E.B. after Radnóti

I  August 1944

In the flint colored mountains of Bulgaria
two weeks before your birth
cannons thundered in the distance
while the road to Radnóti’s future
reared up — a stallion
caught without hope.  A month
later he lay beside the others
ear to the Edelweiss, dried blood,
a few poems in his back pocket
to live on.

II  April 2005
inspired by (“The Blessing”)

You are standing at the river
listening again to the loud silence
of your father and the slyness of gulls.
Ships like rhinos of perennial desire
remind you of how you came to
open such a deep cabinet of spirits,
seek out loss in all its Natural Causes.
You have listened to the Bull Rider,
his advice to dig the fists in deeply
knowing full well how short the ride,
not to mention its sacrifices.
You have examined the surprised eyes
of Hyacinth Macaws, pea fowl and pheasant,
climbed the grand staircases
of granite libraries, traced Radnóti’s
foam and sky.  So many years of studying
canyons revealed only to tourists.
Yet once again, the simple leaves sloughing
here at this river’s edge are shriveled
so must be commented upon.
So once again, the bridge rises, for you to pass.

III  October 2012

This is when you knew.
Boxing up the last letters
for your archivist, you saw
the river was now flooded
with its own mud, the mountains,
a mist without dream behind them.
The lines on your face said it all:
Hugo was dead, Radnóti
a sad link in so many stories
and more to come, the city
would remain the maze of
Salvation Army soup kitchens
in your eloquent poems, the birds
had said what they needed.
And your beloved bees,
once white in your throat
were now brown and motionless.

IV  July 2013

You are packing the car here
I stand utterly idle, one
who can be of no help.
Your destination is so private!
This is a dream.  When I wake
I remember three things:
It is four months since you died,
a line about bread turning to bird
from a poem you loved,
and Miklós Lorsi, the violinist
whose name Radnóti saved for us
at death.  He too died with an ear
to the grasses.  No one knows
the true fate of his violin.

V  Today

August’s heat is again an ocean.
I’ve been sitting on its floor
for days, listening to stones
listening to oysters,
ducking the sleek shadows
swimming above me.  I can remember
hope, but in these dunes
of memory there are no sounds
of gunfire, no soldiers of our hate
no bloated face to protest against.
There is only the aftermath of silence
in which our very short poems
are dug out in the thickest of sand.
Yet look how easily they too disappear.

Notes: Spirit Cabinet by David Wojahn.  Natural Causes by Mark Cox.  Foamy Skies by Miklós Radnóti The Bull Rider’s Advice by David Allan Evans.