DURING THE HUNGARIAN REVOLUTION

On Saturday mornings my father took me to concrete platforms

to watch passenger cars with groggy refugees rattle into Union Station

to see the ghostly survivors, the brave ones who had marched

at the risk of their lives into the tumultuous squares of Budapest,

marched dazed in the wide shadow of Vladimir Ilich “Nicholai” Lenin,

took me there to learn about justice, to make known the truth,

to see for myself the refugees who had swarmed up the sides of Soviet tanks

The uniformed porters pulled the Hungarians like rags by their rough coats

into the dimly lit station with its high domed ceiling

stumbling in disbelief that they were in the United States of America

My father, cruel to his wife, brutal to his children,

brought with him his anger, his Low German dialect,

helped them find their next trains, food, overnight safe houses

On one of those mornings I watched him lead a family patriarch

by the scruff of his elbow through the train station into the light

of the World War I Memorial atop the hill overlooking Pershing Square

That Hungarian man, wrapped in heavy coat, knitted cap over his ears,

saw the memorial flame and wept, profoundly blew his nose

into a remnant of old underwear, wiped his eyes again and again,

hurried inside to bring wives in coarse scarves, weary children

hanging from their mothers, aging aunts, uncles, confused grandparents,

into the freezing clear air to point upward to the flame

Watching them from behind, my father’s face loaded with wrath,

he told me then the truth about our past, about how grandfather

fled Austria in 1903 to escape Kaiser Wilhelm’s draft;

about the distant Jew in us, the rumored great grandmother

turned Catholic to spare her new husband’s family the shame

Standing there, my father in his lost world, I in mine,

I ached at the sight of the brave young women of the revolution

looking down at the sidewalk when I coveted their purified faces

brightening in the dawn outside Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri

on the day I announced to myself the departure of my own train

2018-12-02T02:26:53+00:00