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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 3, September 2015

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Rebecca Drouilhet
Picayune, Mississippi, USA


The Silver Cord

Many years ago, I worked as a hostess at an N.C.O. club with two other women. One was a diminutive, blue-eyed German. The other was a tall, statuesque Jewess. They didn't always get along.

Annie often spoke of her childhood in war-torn Germany followed by her marriage to an American G.I. "When I got to America, they called me a filthy Kraut. People said I killed the Jews and stole their furniture and china, but my mother left me those things. Once someone spit on me for being German."

And then there was Mae. "When I went to visit my relatives in Poland, I was a little girl wearing a wool coat with big black buttons. My parents were fleeing to America. We said goodbye to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and that's the last I ever saw of them. They all went up the chimney at Auschwitz."

a kaleidoscope
changing patterns at every turn . . .
the years I spent
looking for the pieces
of that crazed puzzle

One Saturday night, we served a steak and lobster special to a record crowd. At the end of the night, Mae and Annie worked removing lamps from table tops and emptying salt and pepper shakers. The dim lights and long burgundy curtains lent a 19th century ambiance to the room. Mae and Annie in their black and white French waitress dresses looked like characters out of a Dickens' novel. As they bent and swooped around the room, I swear to God their calves twinkled.

At first as I stood in the glow of a green-shaded lamp by the till, I watched to see if they'd fight. But all seemed calm, and I soon turned my attention to counting the till.

Suddenly, something broke my concentration, a clear soprano voice that swelled and soared above the room.

Annie had turned to face me, and she was singing. She sang a measure alone, and then Mae turned to face me, too, and her rich alto voice joined Annie. It wasn't English, but a romantic and poetic tongue I didn't know.

I couldn't understand a word, but I didn't need to. The music soared higher taking me with it into death and war. At times, I felt so far down, I knew I would never get up again. But then there were weddings and births and the joy of children. There was hope and renewal and life.

At last the room fell silent. I asked Mae and Annie the name of the song. All they would tell me was that it was the song people were singing all over Europe the day World War II ended.

music
I carried with me
out of the fire . . .
between the notes, the silence
of stories untold

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