Confession: Nagyrev, 1929

Jane Satterfield Click to

satterfieldJane Satterfield is the recipient of awards in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, Maryland Arts Council and Bellingham Review.  Her essays have received awards from Florida Review and the Heekin Foundation.  Her books of poetry are Her Familiars, Assignation at Vanishing Point, Shepherdess with an Automatic and the forthcoming Apocalypse Mix, winner of the 2016 Autumn House Poetry Prize.  She is also the author of a memoir, Daughters of Empire.  Born in England, Satterfield teaches at Loyola University Maryland.  Visit her online at

[From 1914-1929, local midwives of Nagyrev, Hungary — the “Angelmakers” — conspired with villagers to murder husbands who had returned from the Western Front.

Any telling starts like the next, a home brew
of whispers, warnings, clues.  But you must
know that people are dangerous
when they’ve returned from war.
Shadows pool and send off rounds,
sing some cracked lament.  Fires crackle,
fog descends: you must not wake
a sleeper up.  When vines run rampant
and spectral winds shake the tattered
underbrush, the river’s a freedom
not easily forgotten– you stray and slip
between its banks.  The day the village men
marched toward the weapons depot, down
the dusty track that snakes the hills, high-tailing
out of here — it was like a spell had lifted:
did we want them back?  I’d lived beneath
the bulk of thunderheads, handed off
when time was right from my father’s
house, my “loving master” the kind of man
riled by simple soup.  I became a woman canny
with the cleaver, who didn’t drop a stitch,
half-sauced on silence when the wee-uns
napped.  That first fall, we clawed rutabagas
from the freezing ground.  By the time ice
drew back, we’d found friends in the nearby
prison camp, magpies clustered while we worked
the fields.  Soon enough, days spun free.
Then Fedor taught me to fish —
laughing as we waded out into the riverbed,
lures spooling on the surface, sinking in . . .
I’ll say no more of hooks and bait,
of pleasure’s path, or Aunt Susi’s good
advice.  I keep the candles snuffed,
and trim the garden’s healing plants.