Rain Coming From a Bright Sky* by Marjory Wentworth

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

Caught by something unexpected
as sudden summer rain
in a place where everything
astonishes:  the cool lake
that seemed to be waiting for them
when they stepped down off the bus, 
Eiderdown pillows and quilts
in every sunlit bedroom,
afternoon chocolates with wine
the color of gold. All of it
like a continuous dream
of home, as if the river
carried these things to Solahuette,     
for the women of the SS
and uniformed officers
posed on a wooden bridge,   
laughing like little children
as the accordion player,
the one still wearing a cap,  
played a familiar tune.
Giddy and giggling
they threw up their hands and ran
toward the alpine lodge, tucked
into the sloping wooded hills
on the outskirts of Auschwitz,
stopping just long enough
for a photograph, despite
mud filled shoes and drizzle
dampened hair, because they were young,
on holiday, waiting for
evening, beer and cigarettes
on the terrace under the stars,   
dreaming of romance, because rain
seemed just right for Solahutte.  
Because they were far away
from the office and telephones,    
piles of paperwork, bad coffee,
endless orders from Berlin;
far from barbed wire fences 
humming with electricity,     
guard dogs, gunshots at The Black Wall,
and pistols echoing
through the long night.   Gone were rows
of white barracks, the masses
of prisoners— their stench,
 their cries, incomprehensible
mumbling, mindless stumbling;
far from the crematorium,
broken down from overuse,
and the smell of bodies
burning in open pits.

It didn’t matter how loud
they sang around the fireplace
after dinner or how many
doors were shut tight in the lodge;
the low rumble of trains
travelling from all directions
at every hour,  lifted
from the pines like music
playing in the background
of every room at Solahutte.    
This long note of human
suffering would stay and hum
inside them, not only when
trains passed through their village,
but in odd quiet moments
that would comprise their long lives,
while standing in the field behind
the house, for example,
pinning socks and damp sheets
to the clothesline, at the sink
washing carrots, or later
when heads bowed over for prayer
around the table.  And after
in the darkness, there would be
no end to the noises, imagined
or otherwise. It doesn’t
matter if it’s actually
something heard,  when the heart
quickens and the mouth goes dry.
That is when their memories
return to Solahutte, 
and the first time they saw
a slow ripple spread across
the lake as transport trains passed
through the forest, and later,
the sudden summer rain.

* The title, “Rain Coming From a Bright Sky” is the caption for Photograph #34585 depicting Nazi officers and 18 female auxiliaries (Helferinnen) posing on a wooden bridge in Solahuette, July 1944, from Auschwitz through the Lens of the SS: Photos of Nazi Leadership at the Camp, Holocaust Memorial Museum.

 Photo by Karen Donner

Photo by Karen Donner

Marjory Wentworth has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize five times. Her poetry books include Noticing Eden, Despite Gravity, and The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle. She is co-writer with Juan Mendez of Taking a Stand, The Evolution of Human Rights, co-editor with Kwame Dawes of Seeking, Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green, and author of the prize-winning children’s story Shackles. Marjory teaches creative writing and African American Literature at The Art Institute of Charleston.