by Paul Hartal

Above the bed
Old photos stared down
Solemnly from the wall.
Behind the glass frame
Grandpa wore
His grey uniform
Of the Great War;
Grandma her sombre dress.

She died before I was born
And grandpa shortly after.
The only grandparent
That I knew was
My mother’s step mother.

For some reason
She did not get along well
With my parents
But I basked
In the warmth of her
Pampering indulgence.

In the manner
Of old peasant women
She dressed in long black
Garments that covered
Her delicate frame,
Hanging down
From her fragile shoulders
Like late autumn leaves.

I think I was about
Three years old
When I became very sick
With dysentery.

Grandma took me
To her house to recover.
I lost my appetite
And her remedies
Included a daily dose
Of red wine
Which she served me
In a small crystal glass.

Holding my hand in hers
Sometimes she took me
For a walk in the streets.
As we passed
The men removed
Their hats
To greet her.

In the summer of 1944
The gendarmes came
And pushed her onto
A crammed cattle car
For a horrible journey
Across Nazi occupied Europe
From Hungary to Poland.

At the end of the voyage
Grandma was murdered
In the gas chambers
Of Auschwitz.

Her body was burned
In the fires of ovens
Her ashes soared
With the flames
Of the chimneys,
Carried by the winds
To the skies,
Rising higher and higher
To the planets
And the stars.

Paul Hartal's picture

A man of many Odysseys, Paul Hartal is a Canadian poet, author and artist born in Szeged, Hungary. His critically acclaimed books include Postmodern Light (poetry, 2006), Love Poems (2004), The Kidnapping of the Painter Miró (novel, 1997, 2001), The Brush and the Compass (1988), Painted Melodies (1983) and A History of Architecture (1972) ., In 1975 he published in Montreal A Manifesto on Lyrical Conceptualism. Lyco Art is a new element on the periodic table of aesthetics, which intertwines the logic of passion with the passion of logic. In 1980 the Lyrical Conceptualist Society hosted the First International Poetry Exhibition in Montreal., In 1978 Hartal exhibited his paintings at the Musée du Luxembourg and the Raymond Duncan Gallery in France and his canvas Flowers for Cézanne won the Prix de Paris. He also has displayed his oeuvre in museums and galleries in New York, Montreal, Budapest, as well as many other places., He approaches poetry with the credo that the heart of poetry is the poetry of the heart. A recurring theme of his recent work explores the human tragedies of wars and genocides.

Last updated March 11, 2012