Formerly Buda’s town hall, courthouse, prison
and school, newly refurbished throughout
and re-named The House of Wisdom, it is now
bookshop, café, bistro, conference centre
and an esoteric museum –
in an eclectic city of museums
ranging from Marzipan through to Murder.
The refurbishment finally repaired
all the damage done by stray Red Army
artillery shells, and uncovered stonework –
exhibited behind glass now – not seen
since the Ottoman Empire ruled Hungary.
Eschewing the conundrum of hailing a cab –
by law all Budapest taxis are yellow
but not all yellow taxis are legal –
we waited for the bus on Castle Hill
to take us to our Pest apartment hotel,
near where the Nazis walled the Ghetto.
I thought how, unlike the rest of Europe,
the British have no living memories –
vestiges of checkpoints or watchtowers,
grandparents’ anecdotes, camps – of invasion,
occupation, totalitarian rule.
That night I dreamt I was five, and in Pest
not in the flat near Golders Green.
There were muffled shouts from the courtyard.
‘They are coming for the Jews.’ When I woke
I saw snow had fallen. On the balcony
a blackbird was hopping, its feet marks
criss-crossed like trellis. The bird looked at the glass,
its yellow beak shining.