March 1, 2016 by northerncardinalreview
You were raised on grandmother Kisanyuka’s vegetable
soups and rock ‘n’ roll. Blue plum gombóc, dumplings.
Stuffed cabbage. And talked Magyar. Abundance of wild
roses. Rhododendron. Birch. As the green station
drove north through Blainville, the landscape became
emptier until it was barren. Built where the Rivière des
Mille-Îsles flows. Laurentian foothills. Two rows of
houses lined the unpaved cul-de-sac. May flowering.
Chokecherry trees. Twenty arpents wooded lot:
450 rang Saint-François, Blainville. The cottage with a
wood stove and no running water. Faded blue-washed
walls. Oak table and a few chairs. Scuffed green linoleum.
Chores. Homework. Father arguing with mother. Sunday
nights, cowboy movies on the black-and-white television.
The Ed Sullivan show. Every schoolgirl kept a scrapbook.
Listened to Elvis Presley, Pat Boone. A lot of rock ‘n’ roll
hits played on your sister Erna’s brown plastic radio.
Hair drawn back and tied into a ponytail. White gloves
and hat for Mass. Pimples. You glimpse your 15-year-old
self: always, lovesick with books. Watercolour. Brushes.
Drawing paper. You wanted to become an artist.
Mosquitoes drowned in rainwater. There in the yard
under a Scots pine, Beno, the dog on a chain. Two cats.
Chickens’ clucking. Red rooster. Geese. The pigpen.
Grandmother with her hoe, breaking the ground, clearing
weeds. Planting runner beans. Spinach. Radishes.
Your immigrant family didn’t belong to any community.
In the mid-fifties: overcoming the language barrier,
the culture barrier. French and English-speaking rural
neighbourhood. Sitting in father’s car: a girl wearing
a blue wool skirt. Light blue sweater set. Penny loafers.
Brownbag lunch, lard spread and sauerkraut. Carton of
milk. The school taught by Marguerite Bourgeoys nuns.
Rosemère, where your four siblings and you had to be
driven daily by father. Not like St. Malachy’s in
Notre-Dame-de-Gráce, Montreal, where you could walk.
Ilona Martonfi lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Author of two poetry books, Blue Poppy, (Coracle, 2009.) Black Grass, (Broken Rules, 2012). Work appears in Canadian Woman Studies, Vallum, The Fiddlehead, Northern Cardinal Review. Producer of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings. QWF 2010 Community Award.