Father’s Wake

Yesterday, we buried apa, my father.

Today, I sit with people I do not know. Attend
a Mother’s Day brunch at the Hungarian Church hall.
Courtland township beside Lake Erie. Muddy, unpaved
roads: listening to the cimbalom. The zither.

Only yesterday we were singing a requiem to him.

“Your father bought the tickets,” mother says.
My son sitting beside me. Mama and eldest sister Erna
from Los Angeles, niece Teresa, on her right.

Today, we ate crisp, round bread
baked in wood-burning ovens,
and we ate it spread with fresh sweet butter.
Filled blue stoneware plates with goulash.
Homemade galuska. Cabbage rolls. Coffee. Mocha torte.

Yesterday, the priest said:
“Who are the children of Josef Martonfi?
Wait inside the door. I will tell you when to walk in.”
Father’s coffin on their shoulders,
pallbearers carried apa into church.
Organ music and choral voices.

Today, we listen to sounds of Gypsy violinists.
Boot-slapping and quick spinning. The czardas dance.
Couples dressed in traditional costumes.

Yesterday, we buried father in the Tillsonburg Cemetery.

I wept on my apa’s grave.

~ Ilona Martonfi

Ilona Martonfi’s Blue Poppy (Coracle Press, 2009) is her first book of poems. She is the founder, producer/ host of reading series at The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre in Montreal. Co-founder of Lovers and Others. Recipient of the 2010 QWF Community Award.

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