The Dressmaker by Ilona Martonfi

My mother Magda has me fitted at the seamstress. Die Schneiderin measures my waist, the length of my arm. The hemline. Buttons. Belt. “White for a First Communion dress. And a short-sleeved summer dress.”

Black lacquered treadle sewing machine. Gilded cast iron. Pins and material scraps strewn on the oak floor. Patterns. Elastic. Binding. The high-ceiling room: lime wash walls smudged with wood smoke. Tall windows looking out onto Sudetenstrasse: Bomb craters. Rubble. The ice cream parlor Worzischek in a small wooden hut. Abandoned Luftwaffe airport Neutraubling, 1951.

Cemetery by the round well where KZ prisoners are buried. The small pond. Frogs. Yellow poplars. Bavarian Forest chalk hills. The Danube River two kilometers distant.

A father and a mother, four daughters and one son. Grandmother Kisanyuka. My Magyar refugee family lives in Halle 7 by the runway: two-story red brick house attached to a factory hangar. Roofless hallway. Windows blasted.

Fourth grade, I am nine going on ten. In the morning, mother braids my pigtails. Ties bows on my Zöpfe. Aproned school dress. White ribbed knee socks. Homework tucked into my schoolbag, I walk with my friend Ingrid, past osier reed. Purple wild iris. Fenced strawberries. Past the church.

Up six cement steps to the two-room school. I open the door. Teacher is there every morning: “Guten Morgen!” We learn arithmetic. Geography. History. Dictation. Pfarrer Böhm gives Catechism lessons. Sister Anna, knitting, sewing, and embroidery.

“Schwarze sit back here!”

On movie days, in the dark classroom, with shades drawn, teacher fondles me. He stands behind me without saying a word. I sit between two boys in the last row on a desktop. His huge body in the dark touches my blue flowered cotton dress, my pigtails.

Ilona Martonfi Author of two poetry books, Blue Poppy, (Coracle Press, 2009.) Black Grass, (Broken Rules Press 2012). Published in Vallum, Accenti, The Fiddlehead, Serai. Poet, editor, teacher. Founder/producer of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings, co-founder of Lovers and Others. QWF 2010 Community Award.


5 thoughts on “The Dressmaker by Ilona Martonfi

  1. There are a few threads in this story that would bind us; our backgrounds are different but the same. Thanks for sharing…lots to talk about, I think, when we meet!

  2. A.Kent says:

    Ilona, even your prose feels like poetry! See you soon I hope

  3. […]  First Posted At sunday @ 6 mag […]

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