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.
In the summer of 2008, Lefcowitz 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.
Originally published in The Museum Issue, Vol. 10:1, Winter 2009.
Barbara F. Lefcowitz (January 15, 1935 - October 8, 2015) was a co-founder of the Writer's Center and an editor of Poet Lore magazine. A poet and fiction writers, as well as a visual artist (working primarily in oil on canvas), she published nine books of poems, including The Blue Train to America (2007), The Politics of Snow (2001), The Queen of Lost Baggage (1986), The Wild Piano (1981), and A Risk of Green (1978), and one novel, Red Lies and White Lies (1994). Lefcowitz was a Professor of composition and literature at Anne Arundel Community College. She hosted the first reading series at the Writer’s Center during the early years when the organization was located at Glen Echo Park. Lefcowitz was a member of the collective, the Medium Rare Poetry Ensemble. She was the recipient of fellowships from the Maryland Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.