Winter on Pine Avenue

On Côte-des-Neiges Road —
across from The General Hospital.
Street crew digging out:
men shovel snow onto trucks.
Waiting for the tram,
pigtailed Magyar refugee girl of twelve.
Blue mittens, wool hat, and slate-grey coat.
I drop my copper cents
for the streetcar conductor:
“You there, Miss! Come up here!
Count the money!”
I walk back to my wood bench.
Sitting by a frozen window.
I wear socks inside brown rubber galoshes —
unable to feel my toes.
The carriage with oak seats
and slats on the wet floor.
Tante’s list in my pocket.
I shop at Steinberg’s on Ste-Catherine Street:
Milk. Potatoes. Apples.
Carry the paper grocery bags uphill.
Sparsely furnished with a table, a few chairs.
Not one painting, cross-stitch tablecloth
decorates the semi-basement on Pine Avenue.
Gas stove. Sun-drenched kitchen.
The first winter in Montreal,
we live with our guarantor, Onkel Willy, Tante Ruth,
blond, blue-eyed, cousin Edith.

Two pinewood crates.
Name painted in large block letters.
The Arosa Kulm sailed Bremen – Quebec.
Immigrant “Landed” —1954.
Father and mother. Five children.
“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”
Candles and silver icicles on the branches.
All the presents placed round the tree:
the tall balsam fir
gingerbread, foil-wrapped pralines.

One year later,
blond, blue-eyed, cousin Edith died in Toronto,
run over by a garbage truck.
A child playing with a red ball.

Ilona Martonfi