Barbara F. Lefcowitz


At the Emlekpont Remembrance Museum
Varsarsley, Hungary

The identical heads of six Russians
wearing steel gray hats
push through the roof and rise
as if they still guarded the city.
Only when you walk down narrow stairs
to where their legs and booted feet
are enclosed in glass shafts
do you realize the guards are beheaded
in the Museum of Remembrance,
a tilted cube of blue mirrors
built so no one will forget
what happened between ‘45 and ‘89
all over Eastern Europe
including this small farming city.

Lenin, Stalin, and Gromyko
greet you like family when you enter the hall
of red fresco walls, like the split guards
a display so clever it’s almost a parody,
evoking grim laughter until you enter
the Red Room with its lucite floor,
such a vivid red that looking down
makes you dizzy and you lean
against a menacing black machine
unexplained but surely meant for torture,
red globes like bowling balls at its base.

Red, red, everywhere red,
solidified sheets of blood
whose red after-images invade
the summer afternoon
block out the lovely old facades
of surviving buildings, the church
with its bulbous dome, the synagogue,
the avenues of lilacs and roses
of this sleepy old farm town
in the plains of central Hungary.
Days later I am still seeing red.

Barbara F. Lefcowitz has published nine books of poetry plus individual poems, stories, and essays in over 500 journals. She has won writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Maryland Arts Council, as well numerous prizes from magazines and anthologies. In the summer of 2008 she was a volunteer teacher of English in Varsarsley, Hungary, a small town south of Budapest.

The starkly surreal façade and vividly displayed galleries of the Emlekpont Museum were both aesthetically and politically astounding in this town otherwise known for its lace, folk art, and strong red wines.


Published in Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 2009.