Visiting the Ridge

Visiting the ridge

from this view I see it better

from this perpetual angle of scarred trees

grating to find an answer

blue white freckles and strawberry blossoms
a horsefly swishing across my face

riddled and pinned on a leaf
wild pink roses and blackberry bush

in a soft white crinoline skirt

I don’t know how to write the truth

the green fly on my hand
this is where home is

My mother used to…

comb my hair; braid my hair
she touched my hair, so did the teacher

she used to pull my white knee socks
up and up over my knees, right up to my neck
I sat in a knee sock
she was hidden my mother in my sock
she spoke little to me

Fourth grade teacher

I slept on a cot
in the morning,
my mother combed my hair
she braided my black hair
I washed my face
took my school bag
walked out of the house
past the linden tree
yellow dandelions
the neighbour’s strawberries
past the grocery store
I walked up the six steps
opened the door to the school
I entered the classroom
I went to my desk, on the right
teacher was there every morning
I shook his hand
“Guten Morgen, Herr Lehrer”
I can still see him
he called me up front,
“write on the board, Schwarze,”
later, a black and white movie flickered
on the wall
I never saw the movies
my teacher fondled me
he stood behind me
without saying a word
I sat between two boys from my class
in the last row, on two desks
his huge body in the dark
touched my blue flowered cotton dress
my pig tails

The shape of the street
Neutraubling, Germany 1951

splinters of snow-glass
lay on the grass
red poppies grew in bomb craters

in the noise,
in the house,

my father killed our dog, Beno
with a sledge hammer
he put a potato bag over him
and jammed him into a vice
Beno had bitten two people
also our grandmother

The House on Potters Road

The garden lay bare, after father got cancer
after his feet got blue from congestive heart disease
he stood there for the last time
we embraced, Father and I, and he said,
“do you need anything?” because I cried
he said, “Mama give her some money”
“no,” I said, “I don’t need money,
I need to hug you, Father, with your blue feet”

in the house on Potters Road

“did you love Father?” I asked Mother
after she told me on the phone,

“your father died”

he had asked her for a cup of tea
and then he went to sleep

in the house on Potters Road
where alone with Mama he had lived

“I was with him for 53 years,” she said
“I got used to him”

The Waltz

Can I have this dance with you, Mama?

Mama, let me take your hand
let’s dance with your phantom breast.
Mama, let’s dance a waltz
in your flowered summer dress.

I will lead you round and round.
It will make you dizzy
so dizzy, Mama.

We are dancing.
I love you, Mama.

Mama, thank you.

The apple tree

in my front yard
I bought it from Jasmine Pepiniere
had it delivered by truck
with purple burlap over its roots. I
prepared a three foot deep hole; poured in
a pail of cold water; unwrapped the roots

that night, we made love
in front of our neighbours
the squirrels and the tulips
my billowing white dress hitched up
to reveal a blue garter belt
you lifted my skirt
to rip off the sash
with your fine teeth
you pulled off my virginity
later that night,
around midnight, we sat
bleeding red tulips
fell from your jacket
today, we are man and wife
in the windows gleam
fuchsia geraniums
with yellow dandelions

My wedding day

I didn’t say good-bye to my father
I didn’t see Mother in the house
I didn’t wear a wedding dress
blossoms in my hair

I said, “I’ll meet my fiancé at six-o-clock”
I saw I was not loved or wooed
I took the 55 bus on Saint Lawrence
wearing a red wool coat and a white silk hat
the gold wedding band in my pocket

I didn’t kiss my betrothed at the church door
I didn’t bring a witness or a bouquet of roses
I didn’t forget my boyfriend had jilted me
two times the month before

At exactly six, he drove into the parking lot
“Were you worried?” he laughed
“I had to go to the garage for a noise in the car”
You look like a nurse in that hat,” he grinned
“Let’s go and tell the priest we are getting married”

I said, “With this ring I thee wed; I will love
and honour you for all the days of my life”

We celebrated in a five dollar a night motel room
I was already pregnant with our child

A battered wife

I must leave you tonight

No. I will stay. Unpack the bags and love
us once more, tonight
tonight, I will not go
I will not go and leave us, tonight

love us once more
tonight, I will not go

Unpack the bags. Hang up the blouses and skirts

I will not leave with my closet half empty
my five fur coats, my diamonds, my 18 K gold
our four children sleeping in their beds

VISITING THE RIDGE © Ilona Martonfi, 2004, 2012

Some of the poems in this collection have appeared in the following magazines or anthologies: Vallum; Fire With Water; Fruits of the Branch.

Copyright © Ilona Martonfi 2003, 2012

Visiting the Ridge was edited for Coracle Press by Carolyn Zonailo. Her website is