Photograph by Laura Veres
What I remember best is the snow.
We were elbowing on the ledge,
watching the never-ending white,
when the soldiers sprang the door.
I barely had time
to drag my little sister to the pantry.
While hiding there,
every breath hurt
as if I were prodded with bayonets.
I was scared it would become possible
to reach into the gaps of my ribs at the jabbing spots.
Then it finished, all of it.
We are found, my sister starts screaming,
I close my eyes
so I can't see what happens to her.
We are said to hear God's voice
when we need it most.
But you might not be able to talk, Lord,
because you carry us not on your palm
but in your gob
I'm tumbled into the garden
and my legs are strained apart.
They cram snow amongst my lips;
they can't stand my odd, elongated squeal.
I don't recognise it right then as mine,
I think it's a helpless rodent
stuck between the seal and the roof
that slogs himself into the wooden overlay as many times
as it takes to smash his head and die.
When they stuff snow in my mouth, I realise
it's my voice, from inside.
The snow is melting in my mouth, nice and slow,
it melts sullenly in my throat.
It tastes exactly like
when my sister and I shot out our tongues
though, since the war started,
nothing tastes the same:
nene's baked apples,
nana's sponge cake.
But the taste of snow stays the same.
Mum said God is not carrying us
in his mouth but on his palm.
I'm lying on the ground, it's cold,
Lord, I'm thinking of the warmth of your palm.
When they finish, they stand up,
mute. Not a word.
The mountains are piercing the sky
like the teeth of someone dampening a howl.
Translated by Agnes Marton
Zita Izso is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Zsigmond Móricz Literary Grant, the Mihály Babits Literary Translator Grant and the NKA Arts Grant. She published her third poetry collection in 2018 under the title Éjszakai földet érés (Nighttime Landing).